Lews Castle

Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinaire


12 August until 18 November, 2017

Free Entry

An historic first takes place at Museum nan Eilean this summer and autumn: the first ever exhibition of Colin Mackenzie’s India Collections in the town of his birth.

Colin Mackenzie is one of Scotland’s most famous 19th-century explorers. Born in Stornoway in 1753, he went on to lead a life of travel, discovery, and exploration in India. As a soldier, engineer, cartographer, polymath, and collector. His career trajectory was from the customs office at Stornoway Harbour to be the first person ever to hold the position of Surveyor General of All India.

Through private personal research, he amassed a large collection of Asian antiquities – famously known today as ‘The Mackenzie Collection’, housed in museums and libraries in both India and the UK.

Mackenzie’ carried out one of the most significant and comprehensive studies on Ancient India art and culture. It was his wish to present these collections properly in his home town so that they could be shared widely.

The Collection comprises a remarkable range of material, including beautiful figures intricately carved in stone, thousands of drawings and sketches from across India and Java depicting ancient monuments, people and customs, maps, coins, and incredibly old and precious palm leaf manuscripts.

Unfortunately, Colin Mackenzie died before he was able to sort, analyse and present his collection. ‘Collector Extraordinaire’ is the first ever curated exhibition of this 200-year-old Collection, fulfilling Mackenzie’s dream.

Items from the Collection will be on loan from the British Museum, The British Library and the V&A.

All images ©Isobel Martin unless otherwise stated