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Today, we collect objects to reflect key social, cultural, political, artistic and environmental shifts in the world around us. We also collect contemporary objects that reflect how the present continually reshapes our understandings of the past.
Explore these pages to find out more about this material and discover how and why we collect it.
Knitted hat, or ‘bunnet’, in Fair Isle pattern X.2022.33. Using the colours of the Ukrainian flag, this bunnet was made in Scotland to show solidarity with Ukrainians after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It was raffled to raise funds for the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Singet ring of Scottish gold from Scotland’s first commercial gold mine (in Cononish Glen), and made by Hamilton & Inches Ltd of Edinburgh, 2019. X. 2020.22. Not only is the ring made from Scottish gold, it is set with a piece of quartz from the mine. This quartz is the host rock for the gold, deep under the mountain Beinn Chùirn in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Bilingual Gaelic-English road sign from Sligachan, Isle of Skye, 2018. X.2018. Contemporary collecting provides a way of exploring and documenting the impact of changing laws and policies, as well as shifting attitudes, on communities across Scotland. Today, all of the signs on trunk roads across the North-West region of Scotland carry a place name in Gaelic first with English underneath.
Parafin wax, EF.2020.4.1-3. These are three jars of paraffin wax, produced by Velocys using the Fischer-Tropsch process. This turns domestic waste into paraffin wax which can then be turned into jet fuel. It burns more cleanly than normal kerosene, in particular avoiding the sooty particulates that are normally produced. This is therefore a cleaner burning fuel produced from waste diverted from landfill. It is hoped this can go into full-scale production.
Solar What?!, T.2019.21.1-2 (© University of Edinburgh). The Solar What was developed at the University of Edinburgh in response to the problems of fuel poverty and plastic and electrical waste from solar lanterns that no longer function. It is designed to be repairable and recyclable and is designed for use in off-grid communities.
'Back to Black’, handblown and sculped glass and copper sculpture by Christopher Day (2020). K.2021.27. Day’s work ‘Back to Black’ discusses the development of the BLK Art Group who endeavored to confront aspects of racism and expose it in a different light, empowering and encouraging black voices and resources within Britain through art. And drawing attention to the fact that four decades on these same voices are still fighting to be heard.
‘Full Grown’ chair, willow, designed and cultivated by Gavin Munro, Derbyshire, England (2017). K.2017.61. (©Gavin Munro). Munro describes his work as ‘like organic 3D printing that uses air, soil and sunshine as its source materials’, employing traditional coppicing techniques to create a sustainable and ecological model of manufacture. He estimates that per unit he uses about 25% of the energy needed to produce a wooden chair by conventional means.
'Self-portrait Dreaming of Portavadie', by Pinkie Maclure, Tayport, Fife, Scotland, (2019). K.2020.20. ‘Self-portrait Dreaming of Portavadie’, explores the artists memories, connection with place and sense of loss around her childhood holiday cottage at Portavadie, on the west coast of Scotland, following the destruction of the Loch after the government sold the surrounding land to a company to build oil platforms who dynamited the shallow bay, killing the delicate eco-system within.
Murchison Flare Tip, T.2017.28.1. Collected from the decommissioned Murchison oil platform as a symbol of the oil and gas industry which has been central to the Scottish economy in recent decades, and of the huge decommissioning process, which is an industry in itself.
Granite rock collected by Iain Cameron, popularly known as ‘Scotland’s snow hunter’. X.2018.48.1. In the most isolated parts of Scotland’s mountains there are patches of snow that last all year round, sometimes for many years at a time. These snow patches are the closest thing the UK has to glaciers. This stone was collected from under the site of Scotland’s longest-lasting snow patch, known as the Sphinx, in the Cairngorms, when it melted in 2018.
Sculpture of a fish entitled 'Peter Piper' made by Jimmy John Thaiday from plastic fishing nets that have been lost in the ocean around the Torres Strait Islands, Australia, trapping fish and marine animals. The sculptures help to raise awareness of the world-wide problem of ocean pollution. V.2020.17.2 .
Japanese sculptural bowl of unglazed porcelain entitled 'A Large Pine Tree Pool' by Hitomi Hosono in 2010. It is decorated with sprig moulded pine tree branches flowing in water and enhanced with hand carving and piercing. V.2019.72,
Pua Kumbu work-in-progress piece from Kapit, Sarawak and made by Helen Manjan Anak Atony in 2019, entitled 'Bintang belulong, bulan kembung, ngias kebung, langit ngeruang'. It is handwoven indigo dyed silk ikat, the motifs depict clusters of stars amidst the full moon decorating the night sky. V.2019.71.1-8.