Discover more about Colouring the Nation: Turkey Red and Other Decorative Textiles in Scotland’s Culture and Global Impact, 1800 to Present.

The project

Colouring the Nation is a two-year collaborative project between the University of Edinburgh, School of History, Classics and Archaeology and National Museums Scotland, directed by Dr Stana Nenadic of the University of Edinburgh, with Dr Sally Tuckett as postdoctoral researcher. The project started in May 2011 and is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government under their Major Research Grants in the Arts and Humanities scheme.   

‘Turkey red’ refers to a complex cotton dyeing process that produced a bright, fast and washable shade of red. It was a major industry in the Vale of Leven, Dunbartonshire throughout the nineteenth century, employing thousands of workers and producing brightly coloured, well-designed and exotic fabrics that were sold throughout the world, from India and China, to North America and the West Indies.

The exhibition

This online exhibition is based on a collection of 200 pattern books, known as the Turkey Red Collection, which was acquired by National Museums Scotland following the demise of the industry in Scotland in 1961. The pattern books date from the 1830s to the 1940s and come in a range of sizes, from small booklets to large leather bound volumes.  Most of the pattern books were used as manufacturing tools, kept as records of the designs a firm produced and to show the different printing techniques that were used. A small number are ‘show books’ and were used by salesmen to show customers and merchants the fully finished designs. 

Over 500 of the designs from these pattern books form this online exhibition, chosen to represent the various Turkey red firms of the Vale of Leven, to show the different printing techniques that were used, to give an idea of the variety of designs that were produced, and to show which international markets were targeted by the Scottish firms. 

You can read more about the project on the Colouring the Nation blog.

Colouring the Nation is supported by

The University of EdinburghRoyal Society of EdinburghThe Scottish Government
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