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 2014

Mining and Quarrying around Dollar

Coal has been mined in Dollar for hundreds of years. Adairís map of 1681 and later nineteenth century maps show mines along the Kelly Burn, and spoil heaps are still clearly visible in the field on the west side of Middleton Farmhouse. There were also coal mines at Sheardale and Harviestoun. More recently, Dollar Mine opened at Westertoun in 1943 and finally closed in 1973. In the 18th century copper and lead were mined in the Glen of Sorrow, above Castle Campbell. Clay, sand and gravel, limestone and ironstone were also mined round Dollar.

Dollar Mine

There were three main quarries: Sheardale Quarry produced the sandstone used for Dollar Academyís Playfair Building and for Castle Campbell. The Quarrel Burn Quarry also produced sandstone, and Gloom Hill Quarry produced whinstone, for setts on paved roads and pavement edges.

The exhibition uses maps to show the geology of the area and the location of mines and quarries. It also explores the social and economic effects of mining, with reference to the employment of women and children and to housing and transport.

The exhibition has been researched by Hamish Hall, Roger Gooch, Bruce Neilson and Fred Matheson, with help from members of the committee and local people with expertise in mining and quarrying. Tools, lamps, fossils and other artifacts have kindly been lent by the Scottish Mining Museum, which has also provided photographs and a handling box. The box will be in the museum until July and will be an excellent resource for children and youth groups visiting the Museum.

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 - 2013

Japanese Gardens at Cowden
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Page updated 24 April 2014