The museum collection consists of over 350,000 objects representing the richness and diversity of Paisley.
The Recognised Collection of National Significance is grouped under eight disciplines:
- Applied Art
- Human History
- Social History
- World Culture.
We have 1200 Paisley shawls – unrivaled anywhere in the world, working looms, pattern and design books, and weaving technology. We also have one of the best collections of 20th century studio ceramics in Scotland and in the top ten of British collections. The Observatory houses a collection of late 19th century astronomical equipment and the Fine Art collection includes paintings by the Glasgow Boys, many of whom had a connection with Paisley such as Sir John Lavery.
The National Audit of Scotland’s Museums and Galleries (2002), identified the collection as Scotland’s 8th largest collection of international, UK and national significance.
This sextant was used to show Victorian visitors how sailors could navigate using the sun and the stars. Before the days of health and safety it was often a dangerous job and many sailors damaged their eyes. That is why pirates are often shown wearing eye patches.
Courts of Paisley Lawn Tennis Club, by Lavery
Paisley Art Institute has several paintings by the Glasgow Boys in the museum. They were a group of young 19th century painters who brought modern French ideas on art to Scotland. One of them, John Lavery, lived in Paisley for some time. This painting by him shows the Clark and Coats families enjoying lawn tennis. The game was a new pastime for the wealthy.
Seed fern fossil
This is one of the oldest objects in the museum. This fern grew here around 300 million years ago. Back then, Scotland was near the equator and covered in tropical rainforests. The fern was preserved in rock and later found by the museum’s former janitor, David Beveridge.
Love’s Messenger, by Diaz
Some members of the wealthy Coats family developed very expensive hobbies. Archibald Coats and James Fulton bought fashionable Dutch and French paintings. The Paisley Art Institute encouraged them to exhibit the paintings for the public. The family later donated several artworks to the Institute. This work by the influential French painter Narcisse Diaz de la Pena was among them.
Paisley pattern book
Paisley weavers were well known for producing cloth with detailed designs. This included the famous Paisley pattern. This 19th century point paper pattern shows how a shawl design was broken down into a grid of small squares. It was then used as a guide to set up the drawloom to produce the pattern on cloth.