From fine and decorative art to furniture, books and associated archives, the National Trust for Scotland’s collections bring us closer to the people who lived and worked in our buildings.

We care for around 300,000 objects in over 50 properties, including one of the greatest collections of art in Scotland. By studying the contents of our castles and houses, we can learn more about the people who built, furnished and worked in them.

Unlike museums, we house our collections in their original locations. Visitors to Broughton House can see works by ‘Glasgow Boy’ E A Hornel in the place they were created. At Brodie Castle we keep paintings by Dutch Old Masters, as well as the Brodie children’s original toys. Kellie Castle, once owned by famous artistic family the Lorimers, contains everything from fine furniture to sketches made by a young Sir Robert Lorimer when he was bedridden with scarlet fever.

Everything tells a story – from clothes to candlesticks and teapots to oil paintings. By keeping so many historical artefacts in their original setting, we are able to paint a vivid picture of Scotland’s rich and varied past.

What do we care for?

These eyecatching figures show just how many objects and artefacts we look after. Included in our collections are:

  • over 3,000 paintings
  • over 2,000 items of costume
  • over 100 chandeliers and at least 600 candlesticks
  • over 2,000 chairs and around 200 sofas
  • over 2,000 plates, around 300 teapots and 45 chamber pots
  • a number of libraries that together contain more than 80,000 books

In our historical archives we hold around 120,000 items, such as estate records, personal letters, photo collections and the odd bit of film or audio. We do our very best to make sure that these archives remain at the properties where they belong, although there are one or two special exceptions where we’ve had to move a valuable archive to the National Trust for Scotland’s headquarters.

At Robert Burns Birthplace Museum alone there are over 5,500 artefacts. These include Burns’s handwritten manuscripts, books and letters, as well as musical instruments, writing sets and even the wedding ring worn by his wife, Jean Armour.

The National Trust for Scotland Photo Library in Edinburgh contains around 250,000 colour images and 90,000 black and white prints. There is everything from 1870s glass plates of St Kilda to high-quality digital images. Together, they make up a visual memory of our places and act as a vital resource for our staff, as well as volunteers and external researchers.

Portrait of Susanna, Countess of Eglinton, which hangs at Culzean Castle
Portrait of Susanna, Countess of Eglinton, which hangs at Culzean Castle

Preserving our collections

Our collections team work with the public to curate and preserve all our artefacts. To make sure our collections have a long and happy life, we take a preventive approach to conservation instead of waiting for damage to occur and then fixing it. We identify the conditions different items need and try to reduce the damage caused by factors such as temperature, humidity and UV light, by putting controls in place and training staff to care for collections through careful cleaning and housekeeping.

Margaret Erskine Of Dun Wife Of The 12Th Earl Of Cassilis Later 1St Marquess Of Ailsa By William Owen 1769–1825 at Culzean Castle

Did you know?

The portrait of Margaret Erskine of Dun, which hangs in the magnificent oval staircase at Culzean Castle, was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence but took 20 years to complete! The work began in 1810 and was delivered in 1830. Apparently, Sir Thomas had a habit of taking on too much work and his paintings would often languish, unfinished, for years.

100 ways

in which we’re loving and protecting Scotland, for you.



50 interesting objects

We have many intriguing and eyecatching artefacts in our collections.

3 key projects

Three case studies give an insight into some of our fascinating and ambitious projects.

Trust at work

​Looking behind the scenes at the National Trust for Scotland’s work with collections.

Collections policies

We have a series of collections policies that guide our decisions.