Delve deeper into the history of samplers in a dedicated study day.

Join our panel of speakers to delve deeper into the history of samplers and discover how they have charted important changes in Scottish society while also providing a fascinating insight into women’s history.


from 10:00    

Registration at the Auditorium, level 1. Entry via Chambers Street.


Welcome and housekeeping


Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers

Helen Wyld, Exhibition Curator, National Museums Scotland

Samplers are unique historical documents, allowing the intersection of personal, everyday histories with larger themes of social change. This talk will explore some of the themes emerging from the exhibition such as education, family life, women’s history and local and national identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Scotland.


"Barbara is learning her sampler" the Education of Girls in 18th and 19th century Scotland                

Lindy Moore, Independent Researcher

Where did Scottish girls make their samplers, and why was learning this skill long considered an indispensable part of their schooling? The broader history of female education in Scotland reveals the influence of gender, social class, religion and culture on girls’ schooling, aspects which were literally “illustrated” in the samplers made in the classroom.


Threads of History

Carol Humphrey, Hon. keeper of Textiles, Fitzwilliam Museum

Samplers are one of the few objects that were made, over the centuries, by a multitude of girls, from the elite to the impoverished and orphaned. Very few left written records of their lives, their samplers were often the only relic recording their existence. Looking at and researching samplers as documents can sometimes illuminate and bring to life those anonymous young women.


Panel discussion and audience Q&A with morning speakers.


Lunch served in Events Space and opportunity to view the exhibition.


Patterns of Childhood: Scottish Samplers from Glasgow Museums

Rebecca Quinton, Research Manager (Art), Glasgow Museums

Glasgow Museums’ collections include approximately 200 Scottish samplers. The majority were acquired because of their inherent charm or the skill of the needlework. Today as well as their aesthetic appeal, many provide a fascinating record of political, social and technological history, offering tantalizing glimpses into the lives of their makers.


Darning, mending and marking: needlework education in 19th-century schools

Dr Vivienne Richmond, Goldsmiths, University of London

Amid fears that industrialisation was interrupting the traditional transmission of  skills between generations of women, needlework became an increasingly important subject in 19th-century girls’ formal schooling. But the type of sewing taught was divided along class lines with the curricula for working-class girls restricting them to the ‘plain sewing’ deemed appropriate for their station in life and ‘fancy work’ forbidden.


Panel discussion and audience Q&A

with afternoon speakers and Leslie B. Durst.


Final commentary and conclusion


Event close and opportunity to view exhibition


Museum closes

The unique collection of Scottish samplers featured in Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers are generously on loan from American collector Leslie B. Durst.

Header image: Isabella Cook’s sampler is one of a pair both depicting a zebra. © Leslie B. Durst Collection

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Embroidered Stories
Scottish Samplers

Get an insight into the lives of children in the 18th and 19th centuries through this unique collection of Scottish samplers on loan from American collector Leslie B. Durst.

Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers by Helyn Wyld
You've seen the exhibition now read the book!

Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers showcases Scottish samplers – drawn from the collection of Leslie Durst – an American with a passion for Scotland.
Event information


21 Mar 2019
10:30 – 15:30 (doors open 10:00)


National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh - Auditorium, Level 1. Entry via Chambers Street.

How much

£35, £30 Members & Conc.

Includes buffet lunch.  

Booking information

Age 14+

Book online or call 0300 123 6789

Book now

There is level access to the Museum via the main doors to the Entrance Hall on Chambers Street and the Tower entrance at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge. Lifts are available to all floors and accessible toilets are available on most floors, as well as a Changing Places (U) toilet in the Entrance Hall on Level 0. There is an induction loop in the Auditorium . Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted. Click here to find more information.

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