Bringing together experts from across the University of Edinburgh and beyond, the Art Collections Project is a new departure in postgraduate training and research.

Its aim is to promote a deeper understanding of the cultural legacy of university collections as forms of material knowledge through staff and student collaboration, including on original exhibitions, publications, public lectures and discussion forums.

Led by Dr Genevieve Warwick, a leading scholar of Renaissance and Early Modern European Art and Visual Culture, the project brings together the School of History of Art at ECA with the University of Edinburgh Art Collections and Museums, its Centre for Research Collections, and Talbot Rice Gallery, and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Enhancing the value of university collections within research-led teaching, it is an opportunity unique to University of Edinburgh students, engaging them in the hands-on research and display of paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, rare books, and archives, and involving innovative use of 3-D imaging technologies in the development of exhibition concepts. 

Integrating teaching and research on the Torrie Collection

In 2014-17, our focus is on the historic Torrie Collection, gifted to the University of Edinburgh in 1836 and chiefly composed of exceptional works of Dutch ‘Golden Age’ landscape painting and Italian bronze sculpture in the tradition of Michelangelo.

The Torrie gift stipulated that the works be made available to the general public, becoming a founding collection - not only for the University - but also for the National Gallery of Scotland when it opened in 1859. Thus its story is an integral part of the history of Scotland’s national heritage and of the broader nineteenth-century intent to democratise art for the nation.  

Since we first started working with the Collection in 2014, we have put on annual, student-led displays - called Rediscover - in the Talbot Rice Gallery to deepen understanding of its key works and themes, and contributed new research to the University’s online catalogue.

Our focus on the Collection culminates in a centenary publication and major exhibition in the University’s magnificent Georgian Gallery (designed by William Henry Playfair); a unique and unrivalled opportunity to view the Torrie works in the historic interior for which they were destined.

Contributors to the project talk about the fresh perspective it brings to artworks
Courtesy of Summerhall TV

In 2014-17, our focus is on the historic Torrie Collection, gifted to the University of Edinburgh in 1836 and chiefly composed of exceptional works of Dutch ‘Golden Age’ landscape painting and Italian bronze sculpture in the tradition of Michelangelo. 

Building on earlier, AHRC-funded work on translating cultures

The genesis of the Art Collections project lies in Genevieve Warwick’s leadership of an earlier study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of its highlight theme, Translating Cultures.

From 2011 to 2014, Genevieve explored how Renaissance prints in University collections have been used as visual encyclopaedias, specifically in artistic training and in the dissemination of art-historical knowledge.

As with the Torrie Collection, the project brought a fresh perspective to bequests, in this case those of William Hunter, James McCallum and William Scott to the University of Glasgow.

It culminated in the ‌Picturing Venus in the Renaissance Print exhibition at Glasgow's Hunterian Art Gallery, and in a 2014 book of the same name.

You can download a pdf of the Picturing Venus publication through Edinburgh Research Explorer.

Would you like to undertake research-led study at ECA?

We also offer a range of research-led postgraduate programmes. Find out more.


Are you interested in studying History of Art, Theory and Display - MSc at Edinburgh College of Art?


Related people