Collections management

Collection management involves the documentation of artworks as well as their transportation and installation at exhibitions.

The registrars work closely with the art handling team to manage the process of transporting, borrowing, lending, installing, documenting and storing the National Galleries of Scotland's collection.


There are over 90,000 works in the National Galleries of Scotland's collection, each with its own unique identity and often on the move. The logistics for transporting, borrowing, lending, installing, documenting and storing the collection are managed by the Registrars' Department.

Much of this department’s work revolves around the Galleries' flourishing exhibitions and loans programmes. We borrow as well as lend, and great works by Monet and Gauguin, Freud and Bacon, cross the world to join our exhibitions in Edinburgh. Likewise, making sure that our loans safely reach (and return from) Cardiff or Sydney is all part of a day's work.

Sometimes there are over 1,000 location changes across the Galleries in a single month. Keeping track of all these movements is vital and so maintaining the Collection database is essential for day-to-day operations.

Immunity From Seizure

National Galleries Scotland is able to provide immunity from seizure under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

Learn more about Immunity from Seizure

Art Handling

When transporting a work of art locally or internationally, it is vital to plan how it is to be moved, involving a full risk assessment. Art Handling Technicians are responsible for the movement, packing, installation, transportation and documentation of every work of art within the Galleries’ collection, and also for loans both to and from the Galleries.

From the smallest miniature to the largest sculpture, each work of art is packed, according to destination and method of transport, into secure cases that have been specially designed to minimise the effects of movement, handling and changes in the outside environment.

We then escort works from the Galleries’ collection on loans around the world, installing and de-installing at their destination. 

Out in the Edinburgh galleries, you will see the Art Handling Technicians at work, managing the installation of our collection and exhibitions. Their varied tasks might involve suspending the 100 leaf-and-liquid filled glass vessels of Christine Borland’s Spirit Collection: Hippocrates from the ceiling or installing a wall-size tapestry at Duff House.

The Art Handling team installing Testino exhibition via the window


The National Galleries of Scotland’s Conservation Department cares for and researches our extensive collection, be it paintings, frames, works on paper or photographs. It also provides care for all works lent to the gallery in support of our busy exhibition programme.

In order to properly care for works of art, conservation specialists must understand the materials chosen by the artist, how they react with each other, how they age and, ultimately, what the artist was trying to achieve. This awareness underpins all conservation decisions, from the selection of a cleaning method to the control of the environment in which a work is displayed and stored.

Conservation of a frame

Collaboration with other institutions and private restorers helps us to extend the range of expertise to cover the care of sculpture, textiles and books, with an increasing emphasis on the care of contemporary art. 

An array of techniques is used to examine the works in our care. This may include high-powered magnification, x-radiography, beta-radiography, ultraviolet and infra-red light, and material analysis. Such close investigation often provides new information about how a work has been created, helping in its interpretation.

Conservation FAQs

Collections Management Policies

The National Galleries of Scotland has statutory responsibilities to care for, preserve and add to the objects in our collections, and to ensure that they are accessible to the broadest possible public. The National Galleries of Scotland Collections Management Policies set out the professional, legal and ethical standards by which we achieve this. They underpin all our collections activities and guide our decision-making, and will be formally reviewed every three years to ensure that they all remain relevant and up to date.



Collections management contacts

Contact registrars about documentation, exhibitions and loans management and art handling issues.
+44 (0)131 624 6463

+44 (0)131 624 6308