Brief Overview of our Collections

Examples from Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections

Fine Art

The Fine Art collections are of local, national and international significance. The major strengths of the collections range from the period c.1850 to the present day, with particularly rich holdings of 19th century French art - including outstanding examples by Daubigny, Fantin-Latour, Boudin, Bastien-Lepage, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard and Bonnard - 19th & 20th century Scottish art; early 20th century English art and a growing collection of challenging international art of the 21st century. Artists' portraits and self-portraits form one important collection area as does our unrivalled holding of work by James McBey. In 2012, a further significant donation, an entire archival collection relating to the Scottish sculptor, artist and poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay, came into the collection.

Decorative Art

The Decorative Art collection comprises over 15,000 items, covering all aspects of applied and decorative art, design and craft and costume and textiles. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of ceramics, costume, glass, jewellery, metalwork and textiles, with a particular emphasis on Scottish work. An active policy of collecting contemporary British Craft has resulted in one of the most important collections of this type in Scotland. There is a significant group of enamels and Jewellery by the Aberdeen artist James Cromar Watt (1862-1940). The fashion designer Bill Gibb (1943-1988), who was born in Aberdeenshire, is represented by the largest collection of his outfits in the UK along with an archive of over 2,000 fashion sketches, working drawings and notes.

Maritime History

Aberdeen Maritime Museum is the place to see real things relating to the lives of the people who built and sailed the ships, fished the seas and defined the harbour from the medieval period to today's busy oil port.

A rich collection of "Captain's Paintings" from the clipper ship era, ship models from 1689 to the present, whaler's harpoons, 14th century jugs traded to Aberdeen from Holland, a fine lighthouse lens assembly, the deck house of a steamer and underwater unmanned remotely controlled vehicles are all presented along with hundreds of other fascinating objects from Aberdeen's long association with the sea.

Science, Technology and Industry

This collection is a record of Aberdeen's industrial history, focusing on our land based industries. These include the textile, comb and papermaking industries, engineering and the granite industry amongst others. The collection also shows science affects how we live, work and play with examples of scientific instruments and technology from the home. Objects range from large engines and machine tools, to hand tools and archival material, giving us an insight into the past and present working lives of Aberdonians.


These collections reflect the extraordinarily rich archaeological heritage of Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland and the internationally significant excavations which have taken place within the medieval burgh since the 1970s. The great strength lies in the substantial body of local medieval material, which, owing to special staff expertise in this field, is an important resource for research and interpretation. This collection - which continues to grow as new discoveries are made - also includes many organic objects, such as leather shoes, textile fragments, rope and wooden artefacts, which survived hundreds of years of burial owing to the rare waterlogged soil conditions of Aberdeen. Prehistoric objects from the locality, as well as objects from ancient Greece and Egypt, are also part of the collection.

Coins, Banknotes, Medals and Tokens

The main strength of this superb collection is in Scottish coins and banknotes, including no fewer than 16 gold coins, ranging in date from the 13th to the 20th century. In addition to that group are the 14th century coin hoards found in Aberdeen, which are of major European significance. Coins from ancient Greece and Rome are among the City's collection, which also features coinage and banknotes from most countries of the modern world. Communion tokens from churches in Aberdeen, North-East Scotland and beyond as well as trade tokens further enhance this assemblage, while a fine range of medals, both commemorative and military, is also included.


The Entire Collection cared for by Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums is a Recognised Collection of National Significance, awarded by Museums Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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To find out more about the collections see Appendix A: Collection Description of the Collections Development Policy

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