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Finlay, Ian

    Full Name: Finlay, Ian

    Other Names:

    • William Ian Robertson Finlay

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1906

    Date Died: 1995

    Place Born: Auckland, New Zealand

    Place Died: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

    Home Country/ies: Scotland


    Director of the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, 1961 -71. Although born in New Zealand, his parents soon returned to Scotland where he was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University. He joined the staff of the Royal Scottish Museum in 1932. He married Mary Pringle in 1933. During the World War II, he was assigned to the Ministry of Information and was deputy regional information officer for Scotland 1942-44. He was promoter to keeper (curator) of the department of art and ethnography in 1955. He wrote A History of Scottish Gold and Silver Work, an abiding passion of his, in 1956. Among the exhibitions he curated was “Byzantine Art” in 1958, brought together by David Talbot Rice and Tamara Talbot Rice. He was made director of the museum from 1961. As director, he began a building program for the museum, created its education department, and began a program of public lectures at the museum’s lecture theatre. He was awarded the CBE in 1965. He retired as director in 1971. He was Professor of Antiquities to the Royal Scottish Academy between 1971 and 1995. His book on museology, Priceless Heritage, was published in 1977, followed by one on St. Columba (521-597) in 1979. Ian Finlay made many BBC broadcast talks on art and other topics.

    Selected Bibliography

    Columba. London: Gollancz, 1979; Priceless Heritage: the Future of Museums. London : Faber and Faber, 1977; Celtic Art: an Introduction. Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Press, 1973; Art in Scotland. London: Oxford University Press, 1948; Scotland. London: Oxford University Press, 1945.


    Waterston, Charles D. [obituary:] “Ian Finlay.” The Independent (London), December 21, 1995, p.12; Reekie, Christopher. “Ian Finlay.” The Herald (Glasgow), December 23, 1995, p. 16


    "Finlay, Ian." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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