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The Scottish Life Archive was established in 1959. It includes aspects of Scotland's rural, urban, maritime and industrial communities, such as housing, work, warfare, leisure, customs and religion, all arranged by subject.
The majority of the archive collection dates from the 1880s to the present day, but there is some material dating from 1700. Whether you want to discover old manuscripts and letters, or trace your family history, the archive offers a unique insight into all aspects of Scottish life.
The Scottish Life Archive consists of a variety of material: an extensive photographic collection and other illustrative material such as drawings, prints, posters, postcards and video recordings.
It is also home to a unique collection of manuscripts, letters, diaries, books, leaflets, oral recordings, maps, plans, trade catalogues, paper ephemera and an extensive newspaper cuttings collection.
While some film footage is also held, the archive does not aim to collect film stock. The bulk of the film collections consist of films made by the East of Scotland College of Agriculture during the 1940s and 1950s.
The wide variety of information available within the archive can be used to research many topics, including local history and Scottish traditional events, such as the celebrations of Beltane, the Fire Ball Festival and the New Year's Day Ba' games. Written and pictorial material is available.
The archive is also a valuable resource for those researching family history. For example, searches can be made in the areas of trading, craft families or estate workers, where some prior knowledge is known.
Photocopies, photographs and slides of material held in the archive are available. Photographs and documents can be reproduced on request, however, copyright law must be observed. Find out how to apply for a licence here.
The Scottish Life Archive is open to everyone, from students and academics undertaking research to those with an interest to discover more about Scottish life in a historical context. You can access examples of our collections in our collections search and at www.scran.ac.uk, the award-winning website which gives you access to over 490,000 high quality images and multimedia files, all copyright cleared for educational use.
If you are unable to find the material you are looking for online, you can visit the Research Library at the National Museum of Scotland, which houses the Scottish Life Archive’s finding facility.
National Museums Scotland Library Services
Edinburgh EH1 1JF
Tel: 0131 247 4137
National Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh EH1 1JF
Monday to Friday 10:00–17:00
Closed at weekends and public holidays
For specific enquiries relating to items held in the Scottish Life Archive please contact the following:
To view original documents and images
Department of Scottish History and Archaeology
Tel: 0131 247 4217
To order copies of original documents and images
Margaret Wilson, Publishing Administrator, National Museums Scotland Enterprises (NMSE)
Tel: 0131 247 4026