The ceramics collection has a strong design focus, encompassing the technological developments of 19th-century factory production, the birth and development of the British studio pottery movement, and 20th century modernism in Britain and Europe. It continues to evolve with the collection of contemporary ceramics.
Highlights from the 19th century include Minton pottery designed by Christopher Dresser, works by William De Morgan, a vase designed by William Burges for the interior of Cardiff Castle and a Royal Worcester aesthetic movement teapot. The 20th-century collection includes a significant group of figures by Gwendolen Parnell as well as work by all the main figures of the British studio pottery movement, including Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. Factory production is well represented, with works by influential artists and designers Susie Cooper, Eric Ravilious and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Ceramics designed by Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau emphasize the European strengths of the collection, which includes European Modernist ceramics. Vessels and sculptural pieces by some of the most influential ceramic artists of the later 20th century, from Jacqueline Poncelet, Alison Britton and Elizabeth Fritsch to Emmanuel Cooper and Gordon Baldwin, are joined by contemporary works.
The Modern & Contemporary section holds an extensive collection of glass, including works by leading manufacturers from the late 19th to the present day from across the UK and Europe, such as Iitalla and Vennini. It includes work in stained glass that depicts ecclesiastical, mythological and social commentary themes from artists and designers such as the Victorian polymath Daniel Cottier, post-war artist Sax Shaw, and contemporary artist and poet Pinkie Maclure. Important examples of sculptural glass art and studio glass by leading international makers such as Sam Herman, Bertil Vallain and Galia Amstel, and noted contemporary narrative works like Christopher Day’s ‘Back to Black’, are also represented. The glass collection includes the seminal Dan Klein & Alan J Poole Private Collection of Modern Glass, gifted to the organisation in 2009 and internationally recognised as a significant survey of some of the leading names in British and Irish Studio and Art Glass.
National Museums Scotland holds a nationally significant collection of modern and contemporary jewellery which includes art jewellery, studio production, unique pieces and Modernist design. It includes pieces from the British Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, and Scottish and Celtic Revival jewellery designed by artists such as Phoebe Anna Traquair, Jessie M. King and Archibald Knox. One of the strongest aspects of the jewellery collection comprises over 1,500 jewels created during the British and European Studio and Art Jewellery movements of the 1960s onwards, including important works by artists such as Gerda Flockinger, Wendy Ramshaw, David Watkins, and David Poston.
Significant capsule collections have been developed, such as the Northern Modernist jewellery collection supported by the Art Fund New Collecting Award, and the Terry Brodie Smith Contemporary Jewellery collection. Recent important acquisitions include an early work by the internationally renowned Scottish jewellery artist and educator Dorothy Hogg, a brooch which incorporates traditional silversmithing and leading digital technology by Glasgow-based Silvia Weidenbach, and a necklace created from a coffee machine during the 2020 pandemic by the artist jeweller Veronika Fabian.
The section’s silver and metalwork collection spans the mid-19th century to the present day, exploring traditional craftsmanship and technological advancements in the craft from electrotyping and electroplating to digital printing, alongside artistic works in metal that challenge our perception of the craft. Highlights from the 19th century include works by Tiffany and Company, designs by Christopher Dresser and enamels by Phoebe Anna Traquair and Alexander Fisher’s monumental overmantel, The Garden of the Hesperides. Important contemporary works include ‘Conditions of Ornament No. 23’ by Micheal Rowe, ‘Das Wie und Das Was’ (The Why and the How) by Simone ten Hompel and ‘Slanted Red Sand Bowl’ by the London based Israeli metalsmith Adi Toch. The department in collaboration with the P&O Makower Trust is also active in supporting emerging makers with a special commission in silver for the Museum that was conceived in 2015; to date recipients of this award have included the Scottish graduates Hamish Dobbie, Jessica Jue and Hazel Thorn.
The collection of product design spans the 20th century to the present, with the majority of examples dating from the postwar period. The collection includes pieces from influential brands and manufacturers, with notable examples of European Modernist design from Scandinavia, Italy, Germany and the UK such as Alessi, Stelton and Hackman, and leading Japanese brands Plusminuszero and Muji.
West German design is strongly represented in the collection with examples by designers including Dieter Rams, Reinhold Weiss and Dietrich Lubs for the consumer products manufacturer Braun. The collection demonstrates the development of plastics technologies and their use in products designed for the home and reflects Modernist principles being brought to a mass market from the 1960s onwards.
The collections of decorative arts, craft, jewellery, glass, ceramics, metalwork, furniture and product design comprise over 11,000 objects.
Combined with the historic dress and textiles collections pre-dating 1850, our collection of European and North American fashion and textiles consists of c. 50,000 items.