Located in the former Canongate tolbooth on the Royal Mile - a building dating from the late sixteenth century - the People's Story is one of the free museums which offers a brief glimpse of what life in Edinburgh has been like across the years.
Focusing on the lives of the people in the city, the museums showcases a variety of aspects of Edinburgh life, with atmospheric soundbites based on the actual testimony of city residents.
It's not as large as the Museum of Edinburgh, which is directly across the road, and the exhibitions have a decidedly old-fashioned feel to them - I'd go as far as to say suggest that much of the information hasn't been updated since the 1980s, when the museum first opened... The displays are also fairly text heavy - take your reading glasses if you need them!
But there are some intriguing details revealed, and it offers quite an insightful perspective on what life in Edinburgh has been like in the past.
It is the people of Edinburgh who take centre stage here, and as such there are costumed models through the museum giving a visual sense of the figures who have lived and worked in the city, and whose stories are being told.
From law and order - the Canongate tolbooth served as a prison, at a time when this area was still separate from Edinburgh and operating as an independent town - to the traditional trades and guilds of the city, to a peek into workplaces of the past, with domestic tableaux showing how people lived at home, there is a wealth of information to be uncovered.
One exhibit shows two ladies enjoying afternoon tea at a tearoom on Princes Street, back to back with a display of their husbands enjoying a drink in a local pub before heading to the local derby between rival football teams, Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian.
Stand for a moment and listen as the conversation between the women is cut with the conversation between the men, highlighting how life was different for husbands and wives, and the variety of concerns they discuss. For the women there's a discussion of temperance and their fears for their children, while the men joke about which of their teams will be victorious at the match...
There's much more sobering content, too. One scene shows a mother and her four children sleeping under the eaves of the room on Blackfriars Street in which she lives in the middle of the 19th century, while the display at the side details what life was like for the more than 1,000 people who lived on the lane. Look closely and you'll notice the woman is shown with tears rolling down her face...
Certainly the museum shows, without gloss, how conditions in Edinburgh were pretty pitiful for many people for many years. And unlike much of the focus of popular histories, which fixate on kings and queens and the high status figures of society, the People's Story is very specifically focused on showing the history of ordinary working people.
Find out about the public washrooms - the steamies - which were the heart of the community, and the housing available to single men who couldn't afford their own accommodation, and spent their days (and nights) in what were described as chicken coops.
From the rise of industry to the rise of socialism, there's a fair amount of political detail to the way Edinburgh's history has unfolded.
The museum won't take more than thirty minutes of your time, perhaps, but it is charming in a municipal, old-fashioned way - and for anyone with an interest in social history there's guaranteed to be something to discover.
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Among Edinburgh's many free entry museums and galleries, St Cecilia's Hall is unique, operating as a classical concert venue as well as a museum of musical instruments. The building which houses it was built in 1763, when it was the first purpose-built concert hall in Scotland.
Designed by Robert Mylne, the hall was narrowly spared when the plans to build South Bridge necessitated the demolition of the lane adjacent to the concert hall on its western side in the 1780s.
After a period as a Baptist church, an arts college and a masonic lodge, the building was bought by the University of Edinburgh in 1959. Today St Cecilia's concert room hosts regular classical music recitals and lectures, as well as being a public museum of musical instruments from all around the world.
The museum holds over 500 musical instruments, from a collection started by Raymond Russell, an organologist, who donated his collection to the University of Edinburgh in 1960.
The range of instruments on display will undoubtedly be more interesting to those with knowledge and experience of music (ie. musicians) but is still impressive to those without such professional insight.
I was especially intrigued by a Tibetan kangling, a ritual flute made from a human thigh bone ("the leg bone of a criminal or a person who died a violent death is preferred," according to Wikipedia), and a violin from the 18th century which is so thin the curatorial note indicates that they are not entirely certain it is technically a violin at all...
There are musical instruments of (almost) every shape and variety on display, from harpsichords (one of which may have been played by a young Mozart...) to guitars, to wind instruments. In one of the sections of national instruments are, of course, bagpipes.
But it is the curiosities which are most likely to catch the attention of a casual visitor - the serpent, for example, an early woodwind instrument which could be up to 5m in length, or the double bell euphonium, a brass instrument with not one but two horns....
The collection of instruments are displayed in bright and clean cases, with information about their date, country of provenance, and some detail about their historical or cultural significance.
The museum is split over two levels, and its on the upper floor that you can peer into the oval Sypert Concert Room itself. Having been substantially renovated and modernised in 2017, the museum and concert room together feel like contemporary spaces that combine history and modernity.
As always, with museums in these historic spaces, it's difficult not to imagine the people who have occupied these rooms before us, the feet which have climbed the stairs, and the more than 250 years of history of the concert room itself.
So step off the narrow cobbled lane of Niddry Street and through the piano-shaped entrance of this small but perfectly formed museum of musical heritage, and catch a glimpse of Georgian-era Edinburgh.
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All of Edinburgh's publicly owned museums and galleries offer free entry to their permanent collections, and National Galleries Scotland manage five buildings which provide access to a fantastic array of artworks.
At the west end of the city centre are the two modern art galleries, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street blends classical and contemporary works. In the very heart of Edinburgh, on the Mound, which connects both Old and New Town, is the original Scottish National Gallery itself, alongside its sister gallery, the Royal Scottish Academy building.
These two spaces are connected by an underground concourse, accessible from Princes Street, and while the RSA hosts regular paid exhibitions, the National Gallery provides free access to some of the best-known classic works by globally renowned artists.
The RSA building was the first of these two galleries to be built, designed by William Henry Playfair in the 1820s. The National Gallery building was commissioned thirty years later, again designed by Playfair, and very distinctly in his classical style, with Grecian-style columns and decorations all around the golden sandstone structure - the RSA is Doric in style (the least decorative) while the National Gallery is Ionic (more ornate). Together these two buildings helped earn Edinburgh its nickname of 'the Athens of the North'.
The foundation stone for the Scottish National Gallery building was laid by Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert in 1850 and the gallery opened to the public in 1859.
Inside the building is a sumptuous series of open spaces with works by some of the world's greatest classic artists on display, alongside iconic works by Scottish painters.
Organised by theme and period the collection fills the space with colour and style, with every wall offering something to discover.
Artists like Rembrandt and Van Dyck are represented alongside Monet, Reubens and Titian, as well as British painters like Constable and Turner (whose watercolours are displayed in a special exhibition every January) and Scottish artists like Alexander Nasmyth and Henry Raeburn.
One iconic picture which is often considered a definitively Scottish work is Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen, featuring a majestic stag in front of a Scottish Highland backdrop. The painting was bought by National Galleries Scotland for £4m in 2017 - but Landseer was an English painter, and for some the uniquity of this work has resulted in it becoming a cliched and overly sentimental presentation of Scotland.
The largest painting in the gallery's collection - measuring approximately 5.7m by 4.2m, including its grand gilt frame - is by an American artist named Benjamin West, who was born in Philadelphia and later travelled to Britain as part of his 'Grand Tour' of Europe.
His painting Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag was recently restored in the gallery in full view of the general public, who could watch the conservators painstakingly working on the enormous picture.
Beneath the gallery space, in the modern connecting section which opened in 2004, you can find the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant, a dining space which offers coffee, snacks and light meals with an option for sitting outdoors and enjoying the views across the eastern section of Princes Street Gardens towards the Balmoral hotel.
Ongoing renovation work is extending the gallery's subterranean spaces to offer more gallery rooms, along with the necessary administrative office spaces. This will make the main entrance into the gallery at the garden level.
So be sure to pop into the Scottish National Gallery during your visit to Edinburgh and discover some of the artistic treasures it holds.
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The National Galleries of Scotland oversees and operates five separate gallery spaces in Edinburgh's New Town - the National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy buildings on the Mound, two modern art galleries to the west of the city centre, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.
This impressive building houses a fascinating collection of images and sculptures of people who have shaped Scotland across its history, from ancient history to modern figures of politics and science, offering an unusual perspective on Scottish history and culture.
The gallery building itself was constructed as the world's first purpose-built portrait gallery space, and was funded by a local businessman and philanthropist named John Ritchie Findlay. Findlay had joined the Scotsman newspaper in 1842 as a junior clerk, and by the 1870s had worked his way up to become its owner.
In the 1880s Findlay donated £70,000 to establish a building to house the collection of portraits which were held by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland - the property was designed by Robert Rowand Anderson, who had also designed the McEwan Hall for the University of Edinburgh and would later be knighted for his work on Queen Victoria's Highland residence at Balmoral.
The building is constructed from red sandstone, sourced from Dumfriesshire on Scotland's west coast, in contrast to the buttery yellow of Edinburgh's local stone, and opened to the public in 1889, at which time it was split into two collections - the portraits, and the collection of antiquities which later separated out to become the National Museum of Scotland.
The outside of the building features statues of significant Scottish figures - look for William Wallace and Robert the Bruce guarding the main entrance - but it is the inside which truly celebrates the men and women who shaped the nation. In the centre of the entrance hall is a gallery frieze designed by William Brassey Hole, featuring a procession of Scots from antiquity onwards.
Within the gallery you'll find iconic portraits of people like Mary, Queen of Scots and Robert Burns, in gallery spaces which are themed to particular periods or styles of work.
It isn't all paintings, either - there are sculptures (both classical and contemporary), photography, stained glass portraits, self-portraits, plaster masks cast after death, and everything from tiny cameo likenesses to huge canvas tryptichs...
And as well as plenty of older paintings from people like Henry Raeburn and Alexander Nasmyth, you'll discover plenty of up-to-date and current works from contemporary artists celebrating modern figures whose influence on Scotland has been significant. Look for paintings of Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton among politicians, writers, sporting figures and musicians...
As with all the publicly owned galleries and museums, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is free entry for the bulk of its permanent collection, with special exhibitions often available for a modest entry fee. They also have a spacious cafe for coffee, snacks and light meals, and a shop for postcards, prints and other art-themed souvenirs of your visit.
So why not pop in to come face to face with Scottish history, and discover a fraction of the collection of paintings, sculptures and photographs documenting those from Scotland's past, present and future.
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