Library in focus 3: National Galleries of Scotland: Modern Two Reading Room

This is the third post in the Library in Focus series, exploring other libraries that could be useful to ECA students.

Today we look at the archive and library at Modern Two, part of the research facilities offered by the National Galleries of Scotland.

A photo of the reading room at Modern Two
The reading room at Modern Two

The reading room at Modern Two is open by prior appointment Monday to Friday, 10am–1pm and 2pm–4.30pm.

The Library at Modern Two covers the history and theory of art from the early fourteenth century to the present. The library has around 100,000 items accessible in the Reading Room, including monographs, catalogues raisonnés, exhibition catalogues, periodicals, auction sales catalogues, audio-visual material, accession files and ephemera. The gallery accession files (sometimes referred to as dossiers) are a unique curatorial resource on every work in the collection, from Titian to Tanning.

The library has been developed to support research into the Collection and the holdings reflect this, with particular strengths in Scottish and European art, and Dada and Surrealism.

The Archive contains over 140 holdings relating to twentieth and twenty-first century artists, collectors and art organisations, and is particularly rich in papers relating to art and artists in Scotland. These include documents, drawings, sketchbooks, correspondence, photographs, textiles, artists’ materials and tools, diaries, newscuttings, audio-visual material and other printed ephemera. There are significant holdings on Eduardo Paolozzi, Joan Eardley and Richard Demarco.

The archive also includes primary materials of international importance in the Roland Penrose and Gabrielle Keiller collections of Dada and Surrealism.

Over 6,000 artists’ books and special books are also available to view in the Reading Room. This collection contains many of the most significant books by artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, and includes a world class collection of Dada and Surrealist publications drawn from the book collections of Roland Penrose and Gabrielle Keiller.

To book a visit and find out more about the collections click here.

Library Wellbeing Collection

The Library has a new Wellbeing Collection which provides access to a range of relevant print and electronic resources for all University of Edinburgh staff and students.

The collection provides resources on all aspects of wellbeing, including but not limited to depression, exercise, general wellbeing, happiness, relationships, sleeping well and University life.

A Resource List listing items in the Collection is available Wellbeing Collection and a webpage provides more information Library Wellbeing Collection | The University of Edinburgh.

To launch our new collection we have a display of Wellbeing Collection books in the Main Library (30 George Square) which will be in place from now until the end of May 2024. All books in the display can be browsed and borrowed so please take a look at this fantastic new collection.

Photo of three displays of books
Wellbeing Collection at Main Library George Square

Library in focus: NMS Library

This is the second in a series of guest posts featuring other libraries (external to the University) that ECA students might find useful to visit. Today we are looking at the National Museums Scotland Library.

The NMS Library welcomes researchers, students and visitors to consult the library for reference use, Tuesdays to Fridays, 10am-4pm. Browse our online library catalogue to discover our historic and contemporary collections.

The Library reflects the strengths and variety of the Museum’s object collections and research interests. Anything ‘Available’ at the Research Library can be found at the time of your visit. If an item is at a location other than the Research Library, email ahead so the material can be ready in time for your visit:

The Research Library is accessible on Level 3 from the Technology by Design Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland. There are several thousand decorative and applied art books for visitors to browse, plus a display of 80 of our most regularly used journals, including The Burlington Magazine, Apollo and Arts in Asia, as well as journals of local arts societies. Many journals held in the Library’s stores are unique within Scotland, and can be requested in advance.

The Library has prominent archaeology and Scottish local history collections, and also excels in the natural sciences. World-wide art and design is the other main collecting strength with material covering everything from fashion, to jewellery and silverwork, to Japanese design and printmaking.

The institutional archive tells the story of the Museum and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland whose historic library and archive are amalgamated with the Museums’. The Archive can be browsed using the Special Collections & Archives finding guides. The stand-out visual material includes the card index of the Scottish Life Archive (a document of Scottish agricultural and social life in the 20th century), the Daniel Wilson scrapbook (comprising sketches and cuttings of early 19th century Edinburgh’s old town), and the archive of textile historian Margaret Swain (records of textiles contained in Scottish private collections). The Library holds the Graham Gadd collection of 19th and early 20th century furniture ephemera and ceramics artist Majel Davidson’s papers, sketches and designs. There is also the advertising archive of Jenners, Scotland’s former, oldest department store.

To view Special Collections and Archives, complete this booking request form in advance.

This post was written by guest editor Jennifer Higgins of NMS Library.

A class of ECA students visiting the NMS Library in 2023

Library in focus: Central Art & Design Library

This is the first in a series of guest posts featuring other libraries (external to the University) that ECA students might find useful to visit. Today we are looking at the Art & Design Library, at Edinburgh Central Library, on George IV Bridge.

At Central Library’s Art & Design Library you can discover a fantastic set of resources relating to art, design and photography, along with wooden 1930s desks, and shelving that has stood the test of time. Enjoy our beautiful space for reading, studying and drawing and browse through our huge collection, covering various disciplines and art movements, from cave to the latest in contemporary art, as well as books on techniques from fashion illustration to lino-cutting.

Looking for exhibition space and events? We have a monthly programme of exhibitions from local artists and groups as well as a free programme of talks and workshops.

We hold a growing collection of artists’ books from artists working in Scotland as well as historic collections of Japanese art, children’s illustrated books and 19th century ornamental design books, and many other historic materials.

With library membership we offer:

  • Free wifi
  • Printing and photocopying facilities
  • Public computers
  • Access to online journals and newspapers
  • Access to e-audio and e-books
  • Borrow 12 books

Join online today and explore the library catalogue

Follow on Facebook and X and Instagram @edcentrallib

For more information and enquiries email the Art & Design Library or telephone 0131 242 8040.

We’re open Monday to Wednesday 10am – 8pm. and Thursday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.

Central Library is located on George IV Bridge – we’re the building that looks like a French chateau! Find a different space to study.

Picture showing the interior of the art and design library
Central Library’s Art and Design Library

Guest post written by Bronwen Brown, Library Development Leader – Music and Art & Design Collections, Edinburgh Central Library.


On a Clear Day: Bookworks and Poem-objects responding to Agnes Martin

11 January 2024:


ECA Library is delighted to host a new display featuring works by Julie Johnstone of Essence Press, and Alan Shipway, painter. Julie has long been drawn to the painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004). For this project she decided to address her interest in Agnes Martin directly, in order to see the body of work that might result when Martin’s life and work ‘met’ her own practice. She was interested in asking what it was that draws us to a particular painter or work of art – that affinity or resonance one feels – and how one might be inspired by that. Also on display are two watercolours by Alan Shipway who is also an admirer of Agnes Martin.

The show is open now until the end of February 2024.

Please do come along to ECA Library, level 1 of Evolution House, West Port, to take a look at our 3 display cabinets and the wonderful works inside.

NB: Evolution House is open to the public Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 4.45pm only. Sometimes our reception needs to close over lunchtime, at short notice, so please either phone ahead to check the building is open or arrive between 9am and 12, or 2pm and 4pm. You can reach ECA Library on 0131 651 5700. Thank you!

For more information go to the Essence Press website

Barbara A. Morton exhibition at ECA Library: sidereal. the afterimage

From 8th September until 7th November 2023 we were delighted to host sidereal. the afterimage, presenting a selection of work from ~ sidereal. the afterimage, by Barbara A. Morton of Entropie Books.

sidereal. the afterimage

sidereal. the afterimage

~ sidereal. the afterimage is a new chapter of creative composition by Barbara A Morton.

The exhibition takes its title from the distinctive signature piece ~ sidereal. the
afterimage which achieves an extension of intention and originality in the
expression of poetry, book-making, drawing, and design.

The accompanying pieces, likewise, demonstrate ambition and creative reach,
both technically and imaginatively, and serve to maintain and develop Barbara’s
ongoing purpose of bringing poetry and poetic text to its aesthetic and accurate
environment ~ to encourage the reader to look, and to encourage the viewer to
read. To look closely. To look again. To look ~ for longer.

The show was at ECA Library, Evolution House (level 1), West Port, Edinburgh, until noon on 7th November 2023. Evolution House is open to the public Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 4.45pm.



Zines at ECA Library

Are you interested in making and exploring the world of zines? We have a growing collection of zines within the ECA Library artists’ books collection! You can find them all on DiscoverEd.
Our collection includes works by Lesley Imgart, Sarah Sheard, “Zine a Month” duo Matt Swan and John Brown, and book artists at Good Press Gallery such as Eden Bo Dower, Johanna Hedva, Aki Hassan, and Isobel Neviazsky.
If you are interested in other collections and collectives, take a look at:
The Edinburgh Zine Library is a volunteer-run archive and reference library of contemporary zines.
The Queer Zine Library  is a UK based diy mobile library volunteer collective celebrating radical LGBTQIA+ self publishing. You can find out more about the history of zine making at Zine-Wiki.
Find out more about the zines at ECA Library by watching this talk on Media Hopper.
You might also be interested in our subject guide on Gender and Sexuality Studies
We also have an artists’ books and zines subject guide