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Embroidered Stories

Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers showcases an extraordinary collection of Scottish needlework from the 18th and 19th centuries, on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

 The 70 samplers in the exhibition are on loan from American collector Leslie B Durst, a philanthropist and passionate supporter of the arts who has assembled a remarkable collection of samplers from Europe and North America. The Leslie B Durst sampler collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive private collections in the world, and includes over 500 Scottish samplers, dating from the early 18th to the mid-19th century.

Mostly made by young girls as part of their education, samplers were primarily a demonstration of sewing skills. Every sampler is both a study in needlework but, moreover, each one is a fascinating piece of social history and it is the stories stitched into the samplers that interest Leslie.

Where possible Leslie undertakes extensive research into the background of the girls and their families. Using the initials, names and motifs that the children have stitched into their work, Leslie has traced girls from all walks of life and from all over Scotland. 

By the 18th century, samplers were intended to demonstrate a girl’s education through the inclusion of alphabets, multiplication tables and religious verses, but they can also reveal other details of their makers’ lives. References to towns, buildings and events are common in Scottish samplers, giving a sense of what was important to the young girls stitching these pictures.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book and a programme of talks and events.

26 October 2018 - 21 April 2019

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF 



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