MacKinnon Collection


MacKinnon Collection


A collection of over 14,000 photographs, jointly acquired by the Library and National Galleries of Scotland in 2018. It was originally formed by a Scottish collector, the late Murray MacKinnon, over a period of three decades from the 1980s onwards. At the time of acquisition it was probably the largest collection of Scottish-related photography in private hands. The collection covers a wide range of subjects, including family portraits, street scenes, working life, sport, transport, and landscapes, dating from the 1840s – salt paper prints by William Henry Fox Talbot and David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson – to the middle of the 20th century. Among the highlights are some of the finest work of Thomas Annan (1829-1887) and his son, James Craig Annan (1864-1946) including rare examples of their original albumen prints. There are fine examples of the work of Scotland's successful commercial photographers, including George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) and James Valentine (1815-1880), portraits of Scottish regiments from the Crimean War by Roger Fenton (1819-1869). The collections also contains a series of albums and prints depicting life in the main towns and cities from the late 1800s and early 1900s, studies of farming and fishing communities in remote villages and hamlets, scenes of shipbuilding, railways, herring fishing, weaving, whisky distilling, dockyards, slate quarries and other working environments. The photographs are in a wide variety of formats. In addition to albums and individual prints, there are daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, glass lantern slides, postcards, framed prints and photographically illustrated books.


The collection is jointly owned with the National Galleries of Scotland and is currently being catalogued and digitised, with each individual photograph being catalogued as part of a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund, due to be completed in 2022. The items in the collection have the shelfmark 'MMK.'.


The collection was sold by Murray MacKinnon to another private collector, and then purchased by the two national institutions in 2018 with financial assistance from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and Scottish Government.


'The Scots: a photohistory', M MacKinnon & R Oram, London, 2003 (compact edition published in 2013)

'From private to public: the MacKinnon Collection and the National Galleries of Scotland-National Library of Scotland partnership', B Milteer, Studies in photography, Summer 2019, 16-27.

Online resources

Library webpage on the MacKinnon Collection

MacKinnon exhibition in the Library 2019-20

From shore to shore: an online learning resource based on the MacKinnon Collection