5 collections to explore in Paisley Museum

Thursday 18th January, 2018

It’s not just all about the shawls…Paisley Museum is packed with things to see!

1. Natural History

The natural history collections at Paisley Museum consist of an estimated 70,000 specimens, ranging from fossils dating back 545 million years to butterflies and moths, tropical shells and British birds. They show the diversity of life both past and present, from the local area of Renfrewshire and further afield.

The collection is divided into three main categories:

  • Vertebrate Zoology consisting of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians and invertebrate zoology including corals, molluscs and insects, in particular butterflies and moths.
  • Botany which consists of flowering plants, ferns, mosses and lichens.
  • Geology which covers rocks, fossils and minerals.

The Paisley Natural History Society host talks at Paisley Museum throughout the year.

2. Art Galleries and Ceramics

Paisley Museum holds an extensive Art Collection of studio ceramics, sculpture and paintings, including work by artists from the Glasgow School, the Scottish Colourists and Paisley-born writer and artist John Byrne.

The museum also has close links with the Paisley Art Institute who stage their annual exhibitions and competitions in the Art Galleries.

The ceramics collection is considered one of the finest in Scotland with over 500 pieces by the majority of important recent and contemporary British studio potters, such as Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. The ceramics collection contains both studio ceramics (made by a single artist who controls the whole process of making the object) and factory wares that have been mass-produced partly by machine and partly by hand.

3. Archaeology

The museum holds an extensive archaeological collection of local objects, from the prehistoric through to Roman and medieval artefacts. Objects in the collection also come from farther afield, including South America and Ancient Egypt.

Items on display include a Bronze Age log boat found near Kilbirnie and a carving of the ancient Babylonian God Nisroch which is over 3,000 years old.

4. Local history

The local history collection gives a fascinating insight into the social and industrial heritage of the town. From the story of the textile industry in Paisley, to the history of the old jail in County Square, and the devastating effects of both world wars, reminders of Paisley’s social and industrial past are represented here.

One of the most poignant sections of this collection is the memorabilia relating to the Glen Cinema disaster, where 71 children died in a fire in 1929. Artefacts such as a projector reel, a pair of shoes and telegrams from all over the world are displayed here in a reminder to the tragedy.

And, of course, let’s not forget…

5. Textiles

The museum contains the world’s largest collection of Paisley shawls – those exotically-patterned, delicate woolen shawls that took the town’s name around the world.

Hand loom weaving was a traditional industry in Renfrewshire throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and examples of original hand looms are housed in the Loom Gallery.


Paisley Museum
High Street


+(0)300 300 1210

Other places to visit after the museum

Architectural treasures and hidden gems