The St Andrews Heritage Museum’s historic collection contains thousands of artefacts, photographs and documents relating to life in St Andrews from around 1800 to the present day. Significant collections include:


Scrimshaw beagle

Object Number: SAAPT 050

This scrimshaw, or carved sperm whale’s tooth, was carved by James Bute on the HMS Beagle during its Second Voyage (1831 – 1836). The carving depicts the HMS Beagle beached on Santa Cruz, South America. Onboard the ship was the famous naturalist Charles Darwin. Just twenty-two at the time, Darwin woud later described the journey as ‘by far the most important event in my life’. Darwin collected specimens and made botanical and geological observations that would influence his theory on natural selection.

The scrimshaw came to be in our collection thanks to a generous donation by the family of another eminent scientist, Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson. The scrimshaw is currently on loan to University of St Andrews Museum Services and an excellent history of this object is provided on the museum’s blog

D’Arcy Thompson Medicine Cabinet

Object Number: SAAPT 1579

This wooden travelling medicine chest was owned by the influential biologist and mathematician Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson and his Uncle,  Dr John Gamgee, veterinarian. Sir D’Arcy Thomson is most remembered for his celebrated publication, On Growth and Form. Prior to studying zoology and natural sciences, he studied medicine. Sir D’Arcy was also a founder member of the St Andrews Preservation Trust.

Russell Family Album

Object Number: SAAPT 2091

The Russell Family Album contains 63 early photographs of the Russell family and notable mid-19th century figures. The album dates from around 1860 and is currently on loan to the University of St Andrews Special Collections.

All of the photographs contained in the album have been digitised and are available to view online.