The City’s collections number some 150,000 objects and span fine and decorative art, archaeology, world cultures, history and natural history. These objects reflect the story of Dundee and its hinterland, and the City’s role in the rich history of Scottish art. Dundee’s fine & decorative art and whaling industry collections are Recognised as Nationally Significant.
The collections are displayed within The McManus, Broughty Castle Museum, Mills Observatory, The Steeple and City Chambers. Objects can be moved on short notice for conservation or collections management reasons. If you’re planning to make a visit to see a specific object, please get in touch first.
The research collection is accessible in store and can be viewed at The McManus or The McManus Collections Unit by appointment.
Search our collections online, or get inspired by some of the themes highlighted below.
We hope you will enjoy exploring the objects in our care - you can find out about using images of our collections here.
Revisit Dundee of the 1960s-80s through the lens of Joseph McKenzie, the father of modern Scottish photography.
Did you know Dundee was once Britain’s premier whaling port? Delve into the City’s rich history of whaling and exploration.
Dress to Impress
Take inspiration from our costume collection, from Victorian dressmakers to contemporary designers.
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
Explore our natural history collections reflecting the world around us from Dundee and beyond.
About the Collection
The City’s collections number some 150,000 objects that reflect the story of Dundee and its hinterland, and the City’s role in the rich history of Scottish art. Dundee’s fine & decorative art and whaling industry collections are Recognised as Nationally Significant.
Fine and decorative art
The collections span four centuries of production by artists working in Britain and Europe. At its heart is a superb collection of nineteenth and twentieth century Scottish painting that demonstrates Dundee’s wealth and importance as a centre for the exhibiting and teaching of art. The wider collection includes historic Dundee silver, Scottish pottery, studio ceramics and glass, sculpture, fine art photography and artist prints.
Our regional archaeology collections reflect the pre-history and history of Tayside and Fife, from Stone Age finds to objects recovered from medieval urban sites in Dundee and the remains of industries that thrived in living memory. The smaller collection of foreign archaeology covers material from Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece and Rome and the Americas.
The history collections illustrate the development of Dundee and its industries – from historic whaling, jute and shipbuilding to today’s biotech and gaming. Personal and community life is reflected in household items, photography and costume as well as objects relating to groups and societies, religion, education and politics.
The World Cultures collections consists of items from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania, relating to all aspects of life, from the everyday to the ceremonial. These objects were brought back from the many cultures Dundonians encountered while travelling the world to live, work and trade, predominantly during the development of the British Empire.
The natural history collections reflect the wildlife of Dundee and its surrounding landscape. The geology collection has fossils which tell the story of life 400 million years ago as well as local gemstones such as agates. The herbarium throws light on the work of pioneering botanists such as Ursula K Duncan. The extensive collection of birds, mammals and fish demonstrates the richness of the Tay valley. The largest part of the collection are invertebrates - shells, brightly coloured moths and butterflies, beetles and dragonflies amongst other natural wonders.
Research & Enquiries
We welcome enquiries relating to the City’s collections and the history of the museum. We are unable to offer valuations or authentication, or undertake detailed research on your behalf.
If you are researching family history, please contact the Local History Centre at Central Library or Dundee City Archives to find out about their rich holdings on family and local history. For valuations and authentications, please contact a reputable auction house in your area.
If you think you have found something of archaeological significance in Scotland, you are obliged by law to report it to Treasure Trove.
The City’s collections are open to everyone. You can discover more about the objects we hold by browsing or searching our Collections Online.
Contact us to arrange a visit to see an object in store, or to find out more about areas of our collections that relate to your interests.
Our images on collections online are available freely for personal use. If you require a high-resolution image or would like to request permission to use an image in a publication or other project, please contact us. Please note that where appropriate we charge a licensing fee, following our Image Reproduction & Charging Policy. This income supports our ongoing programme of collections photography and digitisation. Part of our collections can also be licensed through Bridgeman Images.
When objects are protected by copyright, it is the responsibility of the requestor to determine the copyright status and clear all necessary third-party rights. You can find detailed information on UK Copyright law on the gov.uk website.
Our in-house print on demand service can produce prints in A4, A3 and A3+ sizes of out of copyright objects – contact us to order a print.
Dundee’s collections number some 150,000 objects and we continue to collect for the City. If you would like to offer an object to the collections, please contact us and provide as much information as possible about the objects, including some images. Please do not post or bring objects to the museum without arranging with us first.
Every offer is carefully considered against our collecting policy. We cannot take everything that is offered to us, so please do not be offended if we turn down your offer. We cannot accept material with specific conditions attached or where current ownership might be disputed.
If your item is accepted, it will be catalogued and cared for following sector standards. We cannot guarantee that it will go on display, but it may be included in displays and temporary exhibitions or loaned to other museums. Unless there are copyright or other restrictions, it will be included on our collections online catalogue and will be available to view in store by appointment.
Projects and Partnerships
Our collection of oil paintings and sculpture can also be explored on Art UK, alongside art from over 3,400 British institutions.
Scottish Goldsmith Trust Hallmarking Archive
This archival database brings together much of the known information on Scottish goldsmiths from the twelfth century to the twenty-first century, including those represented in our collections.
The Orchar Collection
The collection of Dundee industrialist, James Guthrie Orchar consists of over 400 artworks. This unique collection remains intact, providing evidence of a Victorian collector’s personal taste. Explore the online catalogue of the prints held in Orchar’s original collection, or see the whole collection on SCRAN.
National Collecting Scheme for Scotland
The National Collecting Scheme Scotland was an initiative that supported public collections across Scotland to acquire and present contemporary visual art. Discover the artworks acquired for Dundee through NCSS.
Get up close to our ship model collection and see them as never before alongside our Recognised collection of maritime art.
The Albert Institute (now the McManus) was established in 1867 – funded entirely through public subscription. Discover more about the men and women who gave so generously by searching our subscriber database created through a research project to mark our 150th anniversary celebrations.