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International markets

The Scottish Turkey red manufacturers exported their goods across the globe. This section explores the main international markets targeted by the Scottish firms.

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What we do

At National Museums Scotland, we care for collections of national and international importance, preserving them, interpreting them and making them accessible to as many people as possible.

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Jacobite heroine: Snuffbox associated with Flora MacDonald

Flora MacDonald famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape. This snuffbox, an heirloom of her clan, links the romantic pair.

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Sea chest presented to Admiral Cochrane

Seaman, nobleman, warrior, engineer, radical, convict, hero: the impact of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, was felt across the world, and his life inspired some of the great stories of adventure fiction.

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Witch's iron collar

This witch's iron collar (or jougs) was owned by the parish of Ladybank in Fife in the 17th century.

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Pitch drop demonstration

Possibly the oldest in the world, this pitch drop demonstration is also one of the slowest science experiments ever created

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Box of Amenhotep II

This box inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Amenhotep II is one of the finest examples of decorative woodwork to survive from ancient Egypt.

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Rob Roy MacGregor: Sporran clasp with concealed pistols

This sporran clasp, as worn by Rob Roy in Walter Scott's novel, hides a deadly secret: four concealed pistols.

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East Asia in Tayside, Central and Fife

Collections in Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Falkirk, Perth and Kinross and Stirling

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Portrait cloth commemorating Mary Slessor

Why should a 19th century Scottish woman feature on a contemporary African cloth? Discover the story of Mary Slessor: missionary, magistrate and champion of women's rights.

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Turkey red pattern
Textile designers

While there is little direct information regarding the specific designers used by the Vale of Leven firms, it is possible to understand how the practice of textile designing developed in Scotland, where these designers trained and where their design inspiration might have come from.

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Copyright and copying

By the time the Scottish Turkey red industry reached its peak in the late nineteenth century, the copying or imitation of designs from India or Europe had been a central element of the British calico printing industry for over 200 years and design theft in Britain was rife. Despite attempts to protect designs and designers, copying was to stay an endemic feature of the Turkey red industry.

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Animals and birds

Designs with animals and birds were produced throughout the life of the Turkey red industry. Like the floral patterns, they were often aimed at specific markets. The peacock, for instance, was a popular motif with the Indian market and appears in a variety of guises in the Turkey Red Collection.

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Quilted garments and quilts

Quilted garments, such as petticoats or dressing gowns, provide a rare example of how Turkey red dyed and printed cottons were actually used.

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Renew your Membership

As a Member of National Museums Scotland you will be invited to renew your subscription each year around a month before it expires.

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Rip It Up reviews

Everybody’s talking about our Rip It Up exhibition! Find out what they’ve been saying here.

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Art at War

Discover a range of paintings, drawings and pastels from the First and Second World Wars from our military collection.

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Objects associated with Robert the Bruce

Robert I, also known as Robert Bruce, was king of Scots from 1306 to 1329. Follow his journey from coronation to grave through objects associated with this famous warrior.

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COVID-19 Advice for Museums

In response to the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on museums across the country National Museums Scotland will be regularly adding to and updating the advice and support we offer to our colleagues in other Scottish museums.

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Dr Nick Fraser

Nick Fraser is head of the Department of Natural Sciences and specialises in vertebrate palaeontology.

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Turkey red pattern
North America

Much of the cotton used by the Scottish Turkey red manufacturers in the early years of the industry came from North America. This cotton was dyed and printed in Scotland and much of it was sent back to America in the form of bandannas, scarves and even flags.

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East Asia, Africa and Australia

Although India was the biggest market for the Scottish Turkey red manufacturers, this did not stop the Vale of Leven firms from seeking out new customers. By the end of the nineteenth century they had established trade links with the Far East, Africa, Australia and the South Pacific.

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Items lent by National Museums Scotland

Objects from the National Museums Scotland collection can be found at museums throughout the UK and internationally.

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The Umbrian Madonna: history and analysis

The first stage of this interdisciplinary project explored the history of the sculpture and included a scientific analysis of its components. The findings informed the conservation and display of this rare piece.

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Collaborative Doctoral Partnership opportunities

National Museums Scotland is a member of the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium. The Consortium is a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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Printed cottons in Scotland

The wide availability of cotton textiles from the eighteenth century onwards transformed popular dress. The demand for printed cottons also had a significant impact on the growth of the Scottish textile industry in general, and the Turkey red manufacturers in particular.

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Turkey red pattern
Figures and objects

The figurative and pictorial designs in the National Museums Scotland Turkey Red Collection are some of the most attractive, which is not surprising because many were designed for themed handkerchiefs, where the simple square of fabric derived most of its value from the images that it bore.

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Barkcloth dance masks from Papua New Guinea

Three dramatic barkcloth masks offer an insight into the traditional beliefs and celebrations of the Elema people from the Gulf of Papua, Papua New Guinea, at the turn of the 20th century.

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Colonial collections

Find out more about how colonial collectors gathered a broad range of objects from areas that were, and still are, considered ethnically and culturally Tibetan to some degree, including areas of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh and West Bengal.

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Gold object of the week No. 3

The Knowes of Trotty discs

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Alexander Graham Bell's box telephone

This strange-looking device was the first model of telephone to go on sale. But can its creator, Alexander Graham Bell, truly lay claim to the title ‘inventor of the telephone’?

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Firms that made Turkey red

A number of firms tried to perfect the Turkey red process and capitalise on the demand for these brightly coloured printed cottons, but many of these enterprises were short-lived. Three firms from the Vale of Leven, however, successfully produced and exported Turkey red dyed and printed cottons and became leaders of the industry.

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