City’s shadowy past comes to light

Body snatching and deadly poisons are among two of the hair-raising topics explored in events at the University this May.

The 'One Last Fright' weekend aims to unearth sinister stories from Edinburgh’s history with the help of artefacts in the University’s collections.

The events are part of the Scotland-wide Festival of Museums.

One Last Fright

Festival of Museums at the University of Edinburgh

15 - 17 May

Programme and booking information


Photo of people dressed in historical clothing

Rare archives on show

Visitors can gain a rare insight into the world of infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare at the first public viewing of a letter written in William Burke’s blood.

The letter was written after his execution in January 1829.

They can also see a petition from medical students at the time, demanding more bodies for dissection.

Toxic make-up and deadly dyes will be highlighted at an event exploring the history of poisonous - and often fatal - natural materials from the University’s geology collections.

Toe-curling depictions of painful medical procedures endured by patients underwent in Victorian times will be the focus of a talk that will feature engraved portraits amassed by surgeon and print collector Sir John William Thomson-Walker.

A Scandal in Surgeons Hall

A night of ceilidh dancing, magic tricks and fortune telling will take place during an event the University has produced in partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh.

A Scandal in Surgeons Hall will take place on Saturday 16 of May.

The evening's entertainment also includes a recreation of a Victorian crime scene.

Creative events

Further events include an evening photography session around Edinburgh’s darkened alleyways, a steampunk jewellery-making workshop and an introduction into lino printing.

A family event will also take place on Sunday 17 May in the University’s Anatomy Lecture Theatre and Museum, telling unexpected tales of Edinburgh’s past through the archives and other exhibits on show.

We are excited to be part of the Festival of Museums this year. We have had such fun exploring the depths of our archives and have some truly eye-opening events on offer. As well as sharing some of the fascinating items in our collections, we’re delighted to work with The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh for what should be an evening full of fun – and scandal!

Sarah DetersCentre for Research Collections

Photo by Laurence Winram