Further Recognition for East Ayrshire Collections

East Ayrshire Leisure has been awarded over £40,000 from Museum Galleries Scotland’s Recognition Fund to work on their renowned McKie Collection. The funding will be used to catalogue and digitise the significant collection, which is a key component of the Burns Scotland partnership.

James McKie was a major Burns collector, publisher and bibliographer in the 19th century. He was a central figure in the Burns world of the 19th century, playing a key role in connecting and corresponding with Burnsians across Britain and beyond. McKie played an important role in the movements for Burns monuments, both in his home town of Kilmarnock, and in Glasgow.

From the very beginning of his career in the 1830s he aspired to be a literary publisher. Before publishing Burns work he published many well-known Ayrshire poets of the mid-19th century including Marion Aird and John Ramsay. He also published literary magazines, annuals, and for a time, one of Kilmarnock’s newspapers. As the principal printer in Kilmarnock he produced books and reports that are now key documents in the town’s history. But his passion lay in the literary world. From Bibliotheca Burnsiana through to his Kilmarnock edition facsimile (1867), his new Popular Edition (1871), the Burns Calendar (1874) and Bibliography of Robert Burns (1881), he showed an ambition unusual in provincial publishing.

McKie’s superb collection contains editions, manuscripts and Burns relics, many of which were on display earlier in the year at the Dick Institute. His collection of Burns editions is one of the key Burns collections in the world. These, and his collection of enormous scrapbooks spanning his career, are attracting significant academic interest from the UK and North America.


Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Leisure said:

“McKie’s 60 year career made an enormous impact on Kilmarnock’s cultural life of the 19th century, but also on the wider Burns culture nationally and internationally. We are delighted to have been awarded this MGS Recognition funding as it will make this extensive collection more accessible to the wider public as well as researchers in the UK and abroad.”


Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“We are pleased to fund these museum projects and to support the vital work of the museum as well as helping them to further ambitions to increase their long term sustainability.  All of the projects will enable the museums to improve their accessibility and visitor experience so a lot of people will benefit from the work.”