From prehistoric times to the present day, artefacts, documents and photographs illustrate the history of Dollar. A brief description of some of what may be seen is given below.

Neolithic carved stone ball


A Neolithic carved stone ball and local finds from Bronze Age burials on loan from the National Museums of Scotland give an insight into early inhabitants of the Hillfoots. Aerial photographs and maps show where the archaeological finds were made.

Castle Campbell c.1850

Castle Campbell

Later inhabitants of Dollar lived in the shadow of Castle Gloum, renamed Castle Campbell, the lowland dwelling of the Earls of Argyll.

The Castle was burnt in 1654, and the ruin was sold along with the local Campbell lands around 1800. Early travellers and artists have left evidence of how the castle and village looked at this time, and these may be seen in the museum.

Dollar Academy

The small village with a woollen mill and a bleachfield changed after local boy John McNabb left a fortune which was used to found Dollar Academy in 1818. Dollar grew as the New Town was built to accommodate teachers, boarders and the families who moved to Dollar to take advantage of the low fees paid by residents of the village. Dollar Academy has gone on to become one of the top independent schools in Scotland.


The Old Kirk of 1775 became too small to accommodate the congregation and in 1842 the New Church was built. The Disruption led to the building of the Free Church (the West Church, now private housing) and the 19th century also saw the building of the U.P. Church (now the East Burnside Hall) and the Episcopal Church, St James the Great.

Lavinia Malcolm

Town Council

By the end of the 19th century Dollar had its own Town Council, and in 1913 the honour of having the first Lady Provost in Scotland: Lavinia Malcolm. Dollar Town Council disappeared with local government reorganisation in 1976, but a record of all the Provosts, together with photographs and other items are on display in the museum.

The Devon Valley Railway

Steam train at Dollar Station

The railway came to Dollar in 1869. From the 1950s until closure to passengers in 1964, Peter Wilson attempted to document all aspects of the Devon Valley Railway. He took photographs of the stations from Alloa to Kinross and recorded many bridges, signals, gradient signs, etc. He also collected timetables, tickets and leaflets. We have built on his collection and some interesting donations are on display. With the help of Awards for All, a completely new exhibition was mounted in 2009 and all 750 photographs taken by Peter Wilson can be seen in a slideshow. These are also documented in a searchable database and with funding assistance from the Scottish Community Foundation and EDF Energy Renewables have now all been printed.

Granny's Kitchen

Granny's Kitchen

With generous donations from Dollar people, we have been able to furnish our Granny's Kitchen with an array of household items from washing dollies and wooden pulleys to butter pats and flat irons. Children will be particularly interested to see how a Dollar kitchen might have looked at the end of the 19th century.

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Temporary Exhibitions 2015

Old Dollar Revisited

Old Dollar Revisited Exhibition

Our new exhibition has much to interest visitors. A large display of black and white photographs will take you back to how Dollar looked and lived in the past. Beside it there is a selection of items from the Dollar Museum Collection—this includes the new Castle Campbell Vase (see photo below) and a gruesome display of old dental equipment with a foot-driven drill and box of tools that will remind older visitors of how much dental treatment has improved in their lifetime.

There is a display illustrating the history of the Fountain in West Burnside, currently being restored. The Fountain was the idea of Ella Christie of Cowden who had organized a very successful Industrial and Loan Exhibition in Dollar Academy Hall in 1890. She gave the surplus funds to the Town Council for a fountain. The fascinating loans included a Breeches Bible, a sword found on Sheriffmuir and a lace collar worn by Charles I.

Plaques on the seats beside the restored Fountain will bear the names of Ella Christie and also of two famous Dollar people: J.E. Kerr, C.B.E. of Harviestoun and W.K. Holmes of Dollar. To learn more about them, come and see the exhibition.

A WWI display is based on two tiny, illustrated notebooks carried by W.K. Holmes on the Western Front in 1916-18. Written in shorthand, these have been transcribed by Val Toon and the pen and ink drawings enlarged and displayed with a map. This is supplemented with photos, identity bracelets and other WWI items lent by Mrs E. Dye.

Those who find the stairs up to the Reading Room difficult will be pleased that they may now sit and look at photos downstairs.

Castle Campbell Vase

This fine addition to the Collection—the Castle Campbell Vase—was bought recently on eBay. It is believed to have been commissioned by Craufurd Tait of Harviestoun around 1811 from Chamberlain Worcester.

Dollar and the Orient

An exhibition illustrating Dollar's links with China and Japan.

The Japanese Garden at Cowden, near Dollar, was created by Ella Christie, an intrepid Victorian traveller who was the first European woman to visit Tibet. She employed a Japanese garden designer, Taki Handa, and a gardener, Shinzaburo Matsuo, who lived beside the garden for many years. The garden was described by Professor Suzuki as 'the best in the western world' and had many visitors, including Queen Mary.

James Legge travelled to China as a missionary and translator and later became the first Professor of Chinese at Oxford University. He sent his children to Dollar Academy and while on leave in Dollar in 1867 he invited the scholar Wang T'ao to help him translate the Chinese classics into English. Wang T'ao kept a diary during his two-year trip and wrote lively descriptions of his travels from Hong Kong to Scotland. The exhibition concentrates on his experiences in and around Dollar.

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Some Past Exhibitions 1988 - 2014

Japanese Gardens at Cowden
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Page updated 14 April 2015