Learning from the past

Support our Collections to help new generations access and understand our past.

University staff showing a student a rare book in a library.
Specialist staff are available to guide students.

The University of Edinburgh holds one of the world’s greatest cultural heritage collections - 100km of materials - that help our students, researcher and wider community make sense of our world.

We hold specimens, rare books, archives and manuscripts, museum objects and art. You’ll find more than 6,000 historic musical instruments in St Cecelia’s Hall Concert Room and Museum, around 12,000 objects, including specimens, skeletal remains and anatomical models in the Anatomy Museum, as well as fascinating insights into attitudes and approaches to healthcare in the Lothian Health Services Archive. The history of Scottish ethnology can be explored in the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

We use these objects, artefacts or books in our research and teaching, bringing art, science and music to life, while maintaining our connection to the past.

Help us build our Collections

The depth and breadth of our Collections would not have been possible without the generosity of our friends and alumni, who have gifted many important items over the years, including books, artworks, musical instruments and many more.

The past, and our understanding of it, continually evolves as the generations shift. We rely on gifts and acquisitions to make sure our Collections continue to reflect society’s changes for future generations.

Help us care for our Collections

 The scale and diversity of our holdings range from 1st century Greek papyrus fragments to born-digital performance art. Each has its own unique security, preservation and conservation needs. We have items in our Collections that are hundreds of years old, unique and rare objects, and many of huge cultural and historical significance.

It is our responsibility to maintain and display our Collections, store and display these items apappropriately and to international standards, to ensure they can be studied and appreciated by as many people as possible, now and in the future. 

Help us share our Collections

 It is important to us that students, researchers and the wider public can learn from and enjoy our Collections.  

Specialist curatorial staff helps ensure our students and researchers access, understand and interpret these fascinating artefacts through expert cataloguing and hands-on support. 

We are also working hard to digitise our Collections, identifying new technologies to find ways to bring our Collections to life for new audiences, and we’re exploring new ways to share our Collections with community groups.  

How to support us

Donors have always played an important role in shaping our Collections. Talk to us about how you can contribute. 

David McClay

Philanthropy Manager, Library & University Collections

Contact details

Consider leaving a legacy

Find out how you can support our Collections with a gift in your will