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The Twelve Days of Christmas (Museum Mix)

Our Collections are rich and diverse, and our staff members are dedicated to their care and stewardship. However, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with all the work going on behind the scenes. So why not take this chance to stop and reflect before the end of the year?

In this December Blog, we are going to present some of our work, reveal some of our least talked-about Collections… and ask you to join in our carols if you can.

On the run-up to Christmas my Museum Collections gave to me…

An Ivory-breasted Bird

Taxidermy specimen of a blue-winged bird with black coat and white front.

The Wardlaw Museum reopened its doors to the public in June 2021 after a major redevelopment, which made room for new temporary exhibitions and reimagined display galleries.

This specimen is now on display in the Museum – but very little is known about how it first came into the Collections. More on this later.

A Two-handled Pot

A tan pot with red and black lines.

Three Wooden Boards

Four Swiss Cowbells

The Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments is a Recognised Collection of National Significance. It comprises over 500 items illustrating the history of teaching and research in Natural Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy and the physical sciences in the University over a period of five centuries.

These four brass cowbells on a wooden stand were used for their acoustic function. Pitch is marked on each of the bells.

Five Glass Thermometers

The Chemistry Collection contains a broad selection of equipment and apparatus used in the teaching of chemistry from 1811, from balances and polarimeters to glassware and retorts.

These five small precision thermometers contain mercury and have an internal centigrade scale. They are held in a case which also includes a note dated 1931 and signed Dr John Dewar. Do you know who Dewar was?

Six Common Starfish

Seven Men Playing Golf

Town, gown, and… golf! Our Collection tells stories about the University, but also about St Andrews itself. Some argue that the two are, at times, impossible to tell apart. It only makes sense to have some records of the history of Golf.

This photograph is part of the Buchanan Collection, which includes seven late-19th and early-20th century photographic albums. Will that putt be successful?

Eight Sounding Rods

Another example from the Historic Scientific Instruments Collection, this set of eight wooden sounding rods would have played a full octave. These instruments would have been dropped to produce the note marked on their label.

Caring for these objects is part of our mission, as their existence attests to the University’s long history of learning, experimenting, and advancing knowledge.

Nine Animals in a Painting

Ten Speckled Eggs

Ten speckled eggs in three boxes.

The Bell Pettigrew Museum houses, in its extensive display areas and stores, the University’s Zoology Collection of c.13,500 specimens.

Documentation about the acquisition of specimens such as these eggs is vast, but not all of it is yet reflected in our Catalogue. Provenance research projects help us understand where our Collections come from, and uncover the involvement of individuals – especially women – who contributed to their survival.

Eleven Green Leaves

This artwork was produced at the beginning of the 1900s by MacGeorge, a Scottish Artist born in a small town in Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish artists are well-represented in our fine art collections, which include works by renowned personalities such as Sir Henry Raeburn, David Wilkie, William Aikman, Thomas Duncan, Sir James Guthrie, George Fiddes Watt, and Beatrice Huntingdon.

Twelve Irish Arches

This photo is part of a series taken in Northern Ireland for the James Valentine firm, which began operation in 1851 in the city of Dundee, Scotland.

The primary outlet for the views produced was the leisure and tourist market, and the subjects were the scenes associated with this. Stately homes, historic ruins, great open spaces, beaches, the grandeur and curiosity of nature, and great engineering feats formed the basis of the firm’s repertoire – samples of which are included in our extensive James Valentine Collection.

Have any of these objects inspired you? Have you got any additional information, or is your organisation involved in similar projects? Let us know below, contact us through our socials, or drop us an email at [email protected].

Post ideated and written by Roisin Gilmore (Visitor Services Facilitator) and Matilde Zoppi (Digital Engagement Officer).