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The RCS Archives and Collections is a rich resource that provides an extraordinary insight into the heritage of RCS and the arts in Scotland.

Since its foundation as the Glasgow Athenaeum in 1847, the Conservatoire’s archives have accrued many important collections of instruments, manuscripts, artworks, photographs, performance ephemera and memorabilia made available via our archives search room facility. 

We are delighted to welcome visitors to view items! Please access our online archive catalogue to learn more about the items and artefacts available in our collections.


Visit Us

Access to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives & Collections is by appointment only. To arrange a visit, please get in touch with the Keeper of Archives & Collections, Stuart A. Harris-Logan:

Email Archives & Collections

Or Phone: 0141 270 8299

Please read out the Archives Access Policy in advance of your visit.


We are a short walk from Wallace Studios at Speirs Locks at:
Whisky Bond – Level 6, 2 Dawson Road, Glasgow, G4 9SS

Our Collections

If you would like to donate material or leave a bequest to the archives, please contact the Archives Officer in the first instance.

Please also refer to the Archives Collection Policy for more information. 

The Conservatoire’s Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, originating before World War II, was greatly enhanced by the acquisition of the collection of John Webb in 2012 and continues to attract important additions. Of a total collection of some 500 historic musical instruments, the 420 instruments in the John Webb Collection include 290 brasswinds which constitute a world-renowned collection. 

The instruments date almost entirely from the long 19th century, a period of great change in wind instrument design, and thus the collection includes a large proportion of the historically important models of woodwind and especially brasswind. The combined collection includes a good representation of the instruments used in orchestras, bands, and domestic music-making in this period. 

The Collection is particularly strong in British instruments but with significant French, German and Italian examples. The collection of keyed brass is particularly fine, with many examples of keyed bugles and ophicleides. The Collection includes many items important in the history of brass instruments, notably including the silver slide trumpet belonging to Thomas Harper Jnr., the Besson valve trumpet of Sir Malcolm Arnold, and several instruments from John Wallace. 

A catalogue of the RCS historic instrument collection can be found here. 

The Conservatoire’s archives hold a large number of original music manuscripts together with rare and early published music. This includes original manuscript music by Sir Ernest Bullock, Frank Spedding, Philip Halstead and Sir Philip Ledger amongst others, as well as important and signed published music scores by Hindemith, Handel, Bach and many others. 

Work has begun on cataloging the Conservatoire’s extensive early and important music collection, which includes both original manuscripts and music published before the year 1800. Visit our Early & Important Music Collection catalogue. 

If you would like more information, please contact the Keeper of Archives & Collections. 

Our collections include the Jimmy Logan ArchiveAnnie Ross Memorabilia, the Pickard Papers, the Ed Tarr Collection, the Friedel Keim Collection, Erik Chisholm Archive and many more of historical and scholarly value. 

Please contact the Keeper of Archives & Collections for more information in the first instance. 

10 Artefacts: Celebrating Our Collections

In 2011,  RCS repurposed four film and television editing suites at the Renfrew Street campus into archives to house our collections. We got to work building the collections by first establishing what we still had secreted in forgotten cupboards, down the back of filing cabinets, in the houses of retired staff and deposited in other archives and facilities throughout the city.

Since opening our doors, the service and the collections outgrew their original home in Renfrew Street. We found new accommodation at Whisky Bond at Speirs Wharf, just up the hill from Wallace Studios. After packing 960 boxes and wrapping items in more than 2 kilometres of bubble wrap, we moved our archive to its new home. 

From the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Archive to the early film career of Jazz singer Annie Ross, from the original manuscript music composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI to an early nineteenth-century glass harmonica made up of tuned musical glasses, our Archives & Collections have something to interest everybody. 

Here are just ten highlights of what our collections have to offer: 

1. Book of Strangers & Dickens’ Signature

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was founded in 1847 as the Glasgow Athenaeum, and one of the earliest items we have in our collections is the very first visitors’ book dating to October of the opening year.
It would originally have been covered in plush velvet, but the years haven’t been kind to its binding and much of it has now rotted away. 

The Book of Strangers, as it was known, is a fascinating record of who visited the institution in its early days.  One of the first signatures that pops out is Charles Dickens, 28 December 1847.  The Glasgow Athenaeum’s Opening Soirée (that’s really what they called it) took place in the City Hall, with the famous author himself chairing events. His signature has its own page from that day, beautifully preserved in Indian ink. 

Other signatures include American renaissance man Ralph Waldo Emerson, who gave two lectures in February 1848, and Glasgow’s famous polymath mathematician, engineer and scientist Lord Kelvin – who was actually born in Belfast. 

Anyone visiting the Glasgow Athenaeum who wasn’t either a member or a citizen of Glasgow had to sign the Book of Strangers, and we find names from as far afield as Greenland, New York, Berlin and Paisley. 

The cover of a Book of Strangers

2. Emma Ritter Bondy’s Diary

Emma Ritter-Bondy was a pianist of international renown. A graduate of the Vienna Conservatory, Emma was born Emma Maria Bondy in Graz in 1838.  

After completing her studies in the 1850s under Josef Fischhof, Emma began a successful touring concert career, eventually meeting and marrying the artist Franz Ritter in 1862. 

In the late 1860s, the couple moved to Koblenz, where Emma took a teaching post at Königlichen Gymnasium zu Coblenz, today’s Görres-Gymnasium.  Their two children, Ida (born in 1874) and Camillo (born in 1875) both trained as musicians, following in their mother’s footsteps. 

In 1891, having lost her husband some years earlier, Emma was appointed Professor of Piano at the fledgling Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music, founded one year earlier under the direction of the Greenock-born and Leipzig Conservatorium-educated Allan Macbeth.  It was to be a momentous appointment. 

A small book with a cross on a deep purple cover.
Portrait of Emma Ritter Bondy.

The first woman to be appointed a professor in the UK was previously thought to be Edith Morley, appointed Professor of the English Language at Reading University in 1908.  It was also previously thought that Scotland did not appoint a woman to a professor’s chair until Margaret Fairlie was made Chair of Gynaecology at the University College Dundee (now Queen’s College, Dundee) in 1940.  Although Emma was appointed Professor of Piano in 1891 and appears in the Prospectus as such in that year, our archives have no evidence of her teaching until the following year. 

Emma’s diary is an intimate record of an immigrant single mother, simultaneously bringing up a young family and holding down an eminent teaching job in an era when married women were expected to stay at home and no state provision was available to support widows.  Her diary, much of which is written in a now-broken code, was donated to the Archives & Collections by Emma’s great-grandson in 2019. 

3. Henri Verbrugghen

At the same time that Allan Macbeth was appointing Emma Ritter-Bondy as Professor of Piano, he was also casting his net wide to capture the emerging talent coming out of the most prestigious European schools.  

Henri Verbrugghen was a recent graduate of the Brussels Conservatorium, where he studied under famed violin teachers Jenö Hubay and Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe. A more or less stellar career immediately followed his graduation, including leading the Scottish Orchestra (forerunner of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) and giving the UK première of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D-Minor. 


Henri Verbruggen holding a violin

In 1904 Verbrugghen was invited to join the professors at the Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music, becoming the de facto head of strings. It was to be the springboard that launched his teaching career, as in 1915 he was invited to become the founding principal of the Sydney Conservatorium – an invitation which he accepted. While there he almost accidentally founded the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and his contribution to Australian musical life is well commemorated. There is a Verbrugghen Street in Canberra, Australia’s capital, and the main concert hall of the Sydney Conservatorium is called the Verbrugghen Hall. 

In addition to his legendary whiskers, Verbrugghen appears to have been a performer with ants in his pants. By 1922 he found himself the resident conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and in 1933 he was appointed chair of the Department of Music at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 

It all began for him in Glasgow, where his reputation not only as a virtuoso violinist but an educator and leader of considerable skill was established. There is no Verbrugghen Street in Glasgow. 

4. Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Trumpet

Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921 – 2006) was a British composer, many of whose works have become immediately recognisable in the popular classical canon.  

He wrote extensively for stage and screen, including five scores for ballets commissioned by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, and film scores for over 100 films.  Perhaps the most famous of these was his theme and incidental music for Bridge Over the River Kwai in 1957, which was to win him an Oscar the following year.  The British Film Institute voted it the eleventh-best British film of all time. 

Malcolm Arnolds Trumpet

Despite his fame as a composer, Arnold’s career began on the other side of the music – as a performer.  At the Royal College of Music, he studied composition under Gordon Jacob and trumpet under Ernest Hall (whose original, handwritten and unpublished trumpet method manuscript is also held by our archives), and it was as a trumpeter that his music career was to begin.  In 1941 he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as second trumpet, being promoted to principal two years later.  Later he would also become principal trumpet at the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  

A slew of awards and accolades would follow, including the Ivor Novello Award in 1959 and 1986, a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music in 1983 and a knighthood in 1993. 


In April 2017 an auction of some of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s personal effects took place at Keys Fine Art Auctioneers in Norfolk, and with financial support from the Research and Knowledge Exchange department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this 1930s Besson 7 Co Class A Protrano LP Prototype Trumpet (No. 128627) was purchased for the collections.  This is the first time it has been played publicly since Sir Malcolm Arnold used it decades ago. 

5. Bust of Alexander Gibson

Sir Alexander Gibson was a pivotal figure in the history of music performance in Scotland.  A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (as the Scottish National Academy of Music and Royal Scottish Academy of Music), Gibson became an internationally famed conductor.  

Not long after graduation, Gibson was appointed Assistant Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, an impressive appointment for a musician still in his twenties.  One of the orchestra at the time fondly remembered ‘he was the only conductor I knew who conducted from the ear.’    

Despite a stint as musical director at Saddler’s Wells and principal conductor at the Scottish National Orchestra (later the Royal Scottish National Orchestra or RSNO), it was opera that was Sir Alec’s (as he was known) real passion, and in 1962 he launched the flagship national opera company: Scottish Opera.  He remained its musical director until 1986.  

The Alexander Gibson Opera School, part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, was completed in 1998, a few years after the maestro’s death.  It was the first and only purpose-built opera school in the UK at the time and continued Gibson’s legacy in promoting the art form.  

This bronze bust of Gibson was donated to the Archives & Collections by his widow, Lady Veronica Gibson, in the 1990s.  It is one of a pair sculpted by noted Scottish artist and Glasgow School of Art graduate Archie Forrest.  The other is now housed in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, home of Gibson’s creation, Scottish Opera. 

A statue of Alexander Gibson.

6. Jimmy Logan’s Pantomime Dress

Our sixth object of ten takes us into the world of drama, initially taught informally at the Glasgow Athenaeum in 1886, and formally added to the syllabus as a diploma and later a degree in 1950.   

This is a pantomime dame dress worn by infamous Scottish variety entertainer Jimmy Logan OBE in his guise as Pantomime Dame Lizzie Trotter.  An oil of him wearing the same dress, painted by another Glasgow School of Art graduate (June Crisfield Chapman) also forms part of Jimmy Logan’s extensive archive, donated to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland by his widow, Angela, in 2005.  It remains the largest archive, and one of the most popular, in all the collections.   

Jimmy Logan was born Jack Short in Dennistoun, Glasgow, in 1928.  Coming from a theatrical family (his aunt Ella Logan, from whom Jimmy was to adopt his stage name, was already a famous Broadway star in New York, and his parents were the popular Glasgow variety duo Short & Dalziel), Jimmy started his performance career at a young age.  His early pantomime performances brought him to the attention of BBC Scotland, where he was soon to become a household name as a comedian, actor, musician – an all-round performer.   

A pink dress that Jimmy Logan wore for a panto. It has stripe designs and embroidery.

Jimmy’s first big screen acting role came in 1949 in the film Floodtide, a grim romantic drama set in Clydeside directed by Frederick Wilson.  It would be the beginning of a very successful career in the industry, including a couple of now legendary Carry-On films alongside co-star Barbara Windsor.

In 1964 Jimmy bought Glasgow’s Empress Theatre, refurbishing it and re-opening it as the New Metropole Theatre where he was to continue his career as a producer and theatrical impresario.    

Jimmy Logan saluting.

One of Logan’s best-remembered performance series was his recreations of Sir Harry Lauder’s music hall revues, and although much of his Lauder memorabilia now rests at the University of Glasgow Library’s Special Collections Department and Low Parks Museum in South Lanarkshire, Logan’s original scripts for his Lauder performances form part of his archive at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  They were used to form a re-creation of the re-creation, this time with Jamie MacDougall in the titular role. 

Discover the Jimmy Logan archive catalogue. 

7. Maria Callas Signed Photograph

In 2012 the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was bequeathed a collection of national significance relating to the world of opera in the form of the research archive of John Steane.  

Opera critic, writer, historian and researcher, Steane was a world authority on opera in the twentieth century and wrote and published extensively on the subject.  

Thanks to the generosity of a financial sponsor, the entire contents of Steane’s library were able to be professionally boxed up and shipped to Glasgow for sorting and arranging into their archival and library collections.    

Chief among Steane’s interests were the opera stars of the twentieth century, from the earliest part of the century to his contemporaries.  His three-volume work Singers of the Century gave the definitive biographical and performance histories of the divas and divos of the age, many of whom have become household names.  

In 2015 the Archives & Collections mounted an exhibition based on materials from the Steane Archive, including twenty archivally framed, hand-signed photographs of opera stars whom Steane admired.  Here we have just one of them; the American-born Greek soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977).  

In this image Callas is performing the role of Cio-Cio San, the title role in Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly.  The photograph is undated but is thought to be from her 1955 performance in Chicago’s Civic Opera House.  A studio recording of Callas as Cio-Cio san was released by EMI earlier that same year, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. 

8. Erik Chisholm / Sorabji Correspondence

Erik Chisholm talks on a phone while writing notes.

Erik Chisholm’s was a precocious talent. Graduating top of his class at the Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music, one of the youngest in his year, he continued his studies on the East Coast, completing a PhD under musicologist Sir Donald Francis Tovey at Edinburgh University. 

Chisholm was a keen proponent of traditional Scottish music in the wider performing arts; he co-founded the Celtic Ballet with Margaret Morris (wife of the Scottish Colourist J. D. Fergusson) and was the first composer to incorporate the Scottish idiom, particularly the tropes and motifs found in traditional Gaelic folk tunes, into classical music.  

His first piano concerto, an orchestral work in four movements (completed while he was still a student), incorporates many of the evolutions and figures associated with highland bagpipe music (ceòl mòr), which led to it becoming known as the Piobaireachd Concerto.  

Early in his career, alongside friends and fellow composers Francis George Scott and Pat Shannon, Chisholm founded the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music.  Despite its vaguely botanical sounding name, the Active Society brought internationally renowned composers such as Béla Bartók, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Bax, William Walton and Kaikhosru Sorabji to Glasgow to conduct and perform their own works, including many UK and some world premières.  

An archive of Chisholm-related ephemera was donated to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives & Collections by his oldest daughter, Morag Chisholm, in 2016.  It included an extensive run of correspondence between Chisholm and the avant-garde pianist/composer Sorabji, beginning around the same time as the formation of the Active Society, and continuing until Chisholm died in 1965.

A letter and envelope directed to Erik Chisholm.
Several items belonging to Erik Chisholm: a newspaper article, letters, and a tuff of hair.
A letter to Erik Chisholm

After formal enough correspondence on musical matters, the letters grow ever more personal, and reading them makes clear that over the years Sorabji grew to fall in love with Chisholm. It’s important to remember that in the 1930s homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom, and at the time these letters were being exchanged their contents could have been actionable.  

Sorabji’s love was unrequited; Chisholm was straight but held no objection to Sorabji’s protestations of his feelings.  The correspondence includes two love poems dedicated to Chisholm, several highly personal exchanges, and a lock of Sorabji’s hair. 

 It speaks to Chisholm’s open mind (he was a vegetarian, anti-apartheid campaigner and pacifist) that their friendship meant a lot to him, and the record of it all survives in beautiful – if somewhat tragic – detail in our archives.  

View the catalogue of the Chisholm Archive 

9. Queen Mother as Banksy

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland became Royal in 1944, thanks to the work of the Principal Sir Ernest Bullock.  

Bullock had been organist and choirmaster at Westminster Abbey before being appointed our principal, and it was under those auspices that his connections with the royal family were established.  

In 1937 he was charged with writing the fanfares and arranging the National Anthem for the coronation of King George VI, a role which he was later asked to reprise in 1953 with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  The original manuscript compositions for both coronations are now held in our archives.  


The Queen Mother spray paints on a wall.

The first royal patron of the institution was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Consort, later Queen Mother.  She visited the institution on several occasions, touring the facilities and opening the new building on Renfrew Street in March 1988.  

This photograph was taken during a visit to the then Academy in 1964; it’s known affectionately in the archives as ‘The Queen Mother as Banksy.’  It is a rarity in itself, as an enquirer once pointed out it was unusual to see Her Majesty at a function with her gloves off.  From the very genuine smile on her face it seems clear that she enjoyed her visit to the stage and set design studios. 

In 1993, when Royal Conservatoire of Scotland became the first conservatoire in the UK to gain its own degree awarding powers, the late Queen Mother as patron became the first recipient.  The degree was conferred on her honoris causa in Clarence House.  

Upon the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, at the age of 101, the royal patronage of the Conservatoire was transferred to her grandson, His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay. 

A black and white image of the queen spray painting on a wall.

10. Mozart – ‘Nozze Di Figaro’

One of the most recent additions to the Archives and Collections is an Early and Important Music archive.  This project is actively collecting original music manuscripts and early (pre-1800) print music. 

One of the earliest groupings in this Collection, and certainly one of the rarest, is a late eighteenth-century manuscript set of scores for Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (‘The Marriage of Figaro’).  As was the convention at the time there is no date given, however, preliminary research on the paper and ink suggests that these volumes were transcribed in the late 1700s, making them almost certainly produced in Mozart’s lifetime. 



Mozart music composition.
Mozart's music composition.

Figaro, an opera in four acts, was composed in 1786 (five years before the composer’s untimely death at the age of 33) to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte.  

Voted by Classical Music magazine as one of the twenty greatest operas ever written, the story is thought to be largely based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s stage comedy La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (‘The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro’), produced two years earlier. 

It follows the travails of the title character Figaro in his attempts to marry Susanna while foiling the attempts of their employer Count Almaviva to steal her away from him. 

Figaro remains one of Mozart’s most popular and enduring operas and is regularly still performed. A catalogue of the Early and Important Music Collection can be found on our Archives Hub.