Material relating to the Outlook Tower Current Events Club, Outlook Tower, Edinburgh

Scope and Content

The collection consists of press cuttings made by the Outlook Tower Current Events Club c. 1895-1914. The subject material ranges from: Africa, agriculture, America, architecture, art, music and literature, astronomy, the Balkans, the British Empire, China, civics, the Congo and the Nile, Dreyfus, Ireland, the Philippines, education, eugenics, Europe, gardens and garden cities, finance, hygiene, industries, labour, medicine, Parliament, polar expeditions, nature and science, meteorology, the Near East, and to Russia, war and peace, and the army and navy. There is a subject list in Box 1 (Gen. 2025/1).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Outlook Tower is situated on Edinburgh's Castlehill (Castle Hill), high on a ridge between Lawnmarket and the Castle Esplanade, at the top of the Royal Mile in the Old Town. The building was formerly a town mansion, with its bottom storeys dating from the 17th century and its castellated upper storeys being added in 1853 when it was reconstructed as Short's Observatory - probably by David Rhind (1801-1883). From that date, it housed a Camera Obscura on the uppermost level.

In 1892, the Outlook Tower was acquired on a lease by Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) who had become involved in the renewal of the city's Old Town. In 1896, the Tower was purchased by the Town and Gown Association, a body formed to assist with the financial challenges met in the renewal of the Old Town. The Tower was to be developed as a regional and sociological laboratory; a centre for post-graduate studies, experimental education and civic improvement. Geddes intended that the building should offer an interactive experience and that it be a civic museum and educational resource. Summer Schools and meetings were organised on such varied subjects as seaside and garden biology, the theory of evolution, philosophy and art. The social phenomena of the city were also observed. The Outlook Tower acted as a centre for teaching, reference and study around all of these activities, and became a civic and urban observatory or laboratory. Geddes believed that such a centre for 'civic and social outlook' could be 'experimented with in any city' and better still with 'the co-operative activity of a Current Events Club'.

Today, the Outlook Tower still houses a Camera Obscura and it is a popular tourist attraction.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) McKean, Charles. And Walker, David (compilers). Edinburgh. An illustrated architectural guide. 2nd ed. p.14. Edinburgh: RIAS Publications, 1982. (2) Gifford, John (et al.). Edinburgh. Reprinted. London: Penguin, 1991. (3) Leonard, Sofia G. (et al.). The papers of Professor Sir Patrick Geddes from the Outlook Tower, Edinburgh. Catalogue of the archives of the Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies. Vol.1. pp.1-6. Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies, 1998. (4) Geddes, Patrick. Cities in evolution. p.116. London: Williams and Norgate Ltd., 1949. (5) Boardman, Philip. Patrick Geddes. Maker of the future. Chapel Hill, N.C: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

There is a subject list to the collection in Box 1 (Gen. 2025/1).

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show another reference Outlook Tower related material (check the Indexes for more details): Gen. 1646 contains a syllabus of lectures and lecture notes for the Outlook Tower.