The items on display in the public galleries represent only the "tip of the iceberg" of the museum's collections, which total approximately 150,000 items.
Other items are stored in the McManus Collections Unit. Tours of the unit are available on selected dates.
Community History collections contain objects that relate to the community and domestic life of Dundee, including civic history and recreation, along with costume. There are letters from missionary Mary Slessor, and an extensive collection of local photographs.
Decorative Art / Crafts
An important collection of Scottish Provincial Silver, about 400 items, with excellent coverage of all known Dundee makers. Ceramics range from ornamental Japanese Satsuma ware and English 18th century porcelain to an expanding collection of Contemporary Studio Ceramics by mainly Scottish makers. 21st century art glass is an exciting new area.
The Early History collections comprise regional archaeology dating from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages drawn from the Dundee area, foreign artefacts representing ancient Egypt and more recent world culture, and an extensive collection of coins and medals.
A richly varied collection with over 4,000 works - oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, artists’ prints and sculptures. Excellent coverage of 19th and 20th century Scottish Art – with notable Dundee artists, John Duncan and McIntosh Patrick. Fine Art Photography, by Joseph McKenzie among others, is a new area. Active Contemporary collecting of new media and paintings.
Our geological collections comprise some 6,000 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils. Highlights include fossil fish from the local sandstone, used to build much of old Dundee and colourful agates from the ancient lavas of the area.
Our botanical collections, some 15,000 herbarium specimens, include the important UK Duncan herbarium of Scottish plants, as well as significant holdings of mosses and lichens.
Vertebrate zoology material includes, bird and mammal mounts, 2000 skins plus associated skeletal specimens, and over 500 spirit-preserved fish.
Invertebrate zoology, which is by far our largest group, has both foreign, historic material and well-documented modern specimens of Scottish origin. Butterflies and moths and beetles are particularly well represented.
Areas of interest in the Social History collections range from Dundee's industrial and working history, to shipbuilding and transport. Key elements include the superb, nationally recognised Whaling collection, and items connected with the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster, such as a girder from the original bridge.
The museum cares for a fascinating collection of material from different cultures around the world. Highlights include Inuit artefacts brought back to Dundee by whalers, and important 'early contact' material from the 1874 Moresby expedition to Papua New Guinea.