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Picturing Scotland's criminal past

Published: 24 Oct 2017 09:42

Rogues Gallery unveiled.

A new exhibition by National Records of Scotland (NRS) offers an insight into Scotland’s criminal past – from an infamous murderer to con artists, pickpockets and petty thieves.

Rogues Gallery: Faces of Crime 1870-1917 pairs images from mug shot albums with extracts from trial records to provide a portrait of criminal justice in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Documents displayed for the first time take the audience into the courtrooms of the past and inside the trial of infamous Edinburgh poisoner Eugène Chantrelle (1878), reputedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr Hyde.

The early years of forensic photography will also be on display, including the footprints that helped to convict serial burglar of stately homes John Aitken Swanston in 1909.

Tim Ellis, Chief Executive, NRS, said: “Our archivists have created a compelling portrait of Scotland’s developing criminal justice system. It’s an intriguing sample of the wealth of historical and cultural treasures contained within the archives at National Records of Scotland. Our partnership with Edinburgh City Archives is a great opportunity to work with a local archive and to highlight its rich holdings”.    

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “In the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology, Rogues Gallery throws light on a shadowy side of Scotland’s story, revealing the rarely-told tales of famous and forgotten figures who are part of our nation’s history. 

“I commend NRS and Edinburgh City Archives for their joint effort in delivering this exciting exhibition and I invite everyone to visit our National Records and discover these  unique items, for the first time on display together.”

Henry Sullivan of Edinburgh City Archives said:

“Bringing together court and police records with the National Records of Scotland really lets us tell some great stories in this exhibition. We hope it will provide visitors a sample of what can be found in the city’s national and local archives and inspire them to find out more about Edinburgh’s past, salubrious or otherwise.”

Background

The exhibition runs from 25 October – 1 December at General Register House

2 Princes Street, Edinburgh. Entry is free. More information at NRS website.