How an Exodus led to a Genesis

Museum talks to explore link between Disruption and Development of Early Photography in Scotland

The surprising connection between Church History and Art History in Scotland will be explored in two forthcoming talks at Museum and Tasglann nan Eilean.

In May 1843 a group of 450 ministers broke away from the Established Church of Scotland in protest against landowner power. By breaking away, the ministers made themselves homeless and penniless. This event, which came to be known as the Great Disruption, led to the creation of the Free Church of Scotland.

Such was the significance and drama of this occurrence that renowned Edinburgh artist David Octavius Hill wished to capture it on canvas. But how could this be accomplished when the ministers would all be leaving Edinburgh for their own parishes throughout the country, at the end of that momentous week? How could photography, which was in its infancy, contribute to Hill’s painting process?

The talks, highlighting the significance of the Great Disruption to Scotland’s social and cultural history, will be presented at Museum nan Eilean Stornoway. Both talks are free but booking is essential for those wishing to attend in person:

Tuesday 7th June 7-8pm ‘Free At Last!’ (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

This talk by the Rev. Nigel Anderson of Edinburgh Theological Seminary will set the scene, exploring the Disruption and its impact on Scotland’s social history: Why did it happen and what were its consequences?

Saturday 11th June 2-3pm ‘The Very Life of It’ (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Blake Milteer, Curator of the Mackinnon Collection at the National Galleries of Scotland will discuss how the Disruption contributed to Scotland becoming a world pioneer in the development of photography. 

The talks will also be accessible online – details will be released by Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean nearer the time of how to view online.

These events have been organised as part of the activities programme accompanying ‘Scotland’s Photograph Album: The MacKinnon Exhibition’ - a touring exhibition from the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland which is showing at Museum nan Eilean until 18th June.

NOTES TO EDITORS: A copy of the painting: ‘The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission – 23rd May 1843’ by David O. Hill RSA is available as an illustration to accompany this piece. To enquire about use of this image please contact: