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Old Edinburgh


From a 1930s view of a smoky Lawnmarket taken through the cusped masonry of St Giles’ Cathedral, to a hushed shot of the sales hall of Jenner’s Department store in 1900, photographs of old Edinburgh present a city at once familiar and distant. It can be a strange sensation to look at these images, to sense your separation in time from sites and landmarks that are so well known –you can walk the same streets, but you can never visit the moments these photographs have captured. Some see historic photography as a window on the ‘foreign country’ of the past, where ‘they do things differently’: by capturing lifestyles that range from the subtly different to the near alien they blur the recognition factor in our modern eyes. And perhaps in isolation this is true. But, when such photographs are brought together – as in the RCAHMS archives – they come to form a collective memory, an invaluable record that connects the people of Scotland today and in the future to the places where they have lived for generations.