Paisley: The Secret Collection

The first publicly accessible museum store on a UK high street, The Secret Collection is home to thousands of objects that reflect Renfrewshire’s rich heritage and culture.

The collection includes some of Paisley’s world-famous textiles, plus a mix of ceramics, world cultures, social history, art and sculpture, natural history and local archives.

There are six stores or ‘pods’ with custom-built storage and environmental controls for the collections – find out what’s in each one below:

1. Textiles– Renfrewshire’s Recognised Collection of National Significance comprises around 1,200 Paisley Shawls, working looms, pattern and design books and weaving technology, telling the story of the famous Paisley Pattern.

2. Archives – Along with the Heritage Centre at Abbey Mill Business Centre, the Secret Collection contains extensive local and family history archives.

3. Art – The Art Store contains Fine and Applied Art, including:

  • Scottish oil paintings from the 18th century to the present, but mostly consisting of 19th and early 20th century work;
  • English and continental oil paintings dating from the 16th century including the Balgonie Altarpiece (one of the few remaining pieces of pre-Reformation church furnishing left in Scotland);
  • Drawings and watercolours from the 19th century onwards, including work by Scottish artists such as WR Flint, J Howe and J Bellany;
  • Prints of all types, including a series by the French artist A Legros and the English artist W Sickert;
  • Contemporary art, which spans the end of the twentieth century into the twenty first century;
  • Applied art, with sculpture consisting of bronze and marble portrait busts and figure groups, about 180 medallions and miniature friezes, and a collection of miniature stucco medallions of classical and historical scenes.

4. Natural History – The museum holds a copy of the nine-volume American Ornithology by Paisley-born Alexander Wilson and a copy of the Birds of America by John James Audobon. There is also an extensive entymology collection.

5. Ceramics and World Cultures – Factory-made ceramics are represented by a collection of mostly nineteenth century ware by British and continental makers. The World Culture collection consists of over 1500 items reflecting Paisley’s and Renfrewshire’s wealthy past and its subsequent relationships with empire, trade and the globe. There is a significant collection of material from Ancient Egypt, including a number of pieces donated by the (now) National Museums Scotland in the mid-20th century.

6. Social History – Includes collections from across the many industries that once dominated the town and region, such as Chrysler car manufacturer and Robertson’s jam.

Join us on a video tour to discover many of these never-seen-before objects and some old favourites, like Buddy the lion!


Find out more online at the links below.

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