A city of many faiths: Museum of Edinburgh explores journey from immigration to integration

The City of Edinburgh Council's Museum of Edinburgh has opened its doors to a collection of community and family stories from faith groups.

Our story

The free to visit display of photographs and oral histories will open on Friday 10 November until Monday 23 April.

Celebrating the city’s rich diversity through the anecdotes of people who live here, have settled here, or were born here, the exhibition tells Our Story.

The project is run by the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association, a charity which works towards effective dialogue, peace and understanding between faiths in the city of Edinburgh. Generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has made the project possible. 

Carrie Alderton, Project Coordinator of Our Story for the Edinburgh InterFaith Association, said: "The process of researching this exhibition has been an exciting adventure and has involved delving into Edinburgh's diverse history. Oral histories allow you to hear a person's memories, struggles and triumphs in their own words. We have tried to capture this auntenticity in the exhibition. Rather than tell a factual history of Edinburgh, this exhibition celebrates Edinburgh's diversity and history through the stories of its people."

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Convener, said: “This exhibition is an opportunity to delve into Edinburgh’s fascinating social history and learn about some of the many people who have chosen to call this city home. Weaving the lives of local people together to tell Our Story, the display celebrates our diversity and our togetherness.

“I hope the exhibition provides a warm and contemporary introduction to the story of Edinburgh’s faith communities, and serves as an important reminder of how our city’s vibrant culture is thanks to a multi-cultural mix of citizens.”

Over two rooms at the Museum of Edinburgh, people’s stories and memories are displayed through text, photos and some artefacts. Some names have been changed to protect their identity.

Read on for a small sample of the stories, and visit the Museum for free from Friday.

We all know the stories, cos we’ve all heard it- like folk lore- the older generation used to talk about it.” - Galab Singh

“At Easter there’s the tradition of [Swieconka]: the food which is prepared for Easter morning breakfast is blessed in church on Easter Saturday. If you were to go to the Cathedral, or many churches in Scotland, you would see throngs of Polish people with little baskets making their way to the church.” - Stefan Boran

“It was empowering to have a space where women were equal.” - Helen Livingstone on Unitarian progressive views in Edinburgh. 

“I’m so proud to be a Sikh woman. I was the first Sikh woman from the Bhatra community in Edinburgh to work in an office… [and] in 2014, I was the first Sikh woman in Scotland to be awarded an OBE.” - Trishna Singh.

“I was battling with my identity becoming this new Muslim - who am I now? So I’m not Asian, that does nae work... Not really feeling it when I’m with my Scottish friends now, because they wanna got to Teviot, and get a drink. I even changed my name, to Maryam, which is similar to Mary, because I thought it would be easier. I’ve now reverted back to Mary because I realise there’s absolutely nothing wrong wi’ it.” - Mary Smith

“I was involved with setting up the Lothian Race Relations Board, in the Pakistani community- but also I was involved with the sport as well. I was a cricket player, and established the Pakistani community cricket club. The club still goes, and my grandson - he plays for Scotland now, for the main team!” - Mohammad Aslam.

“You get used to the lifestyle, when you’ve spent that much time, this is our home now, this is the place where my children are born, so for me there’s nothing else in Pakistan now!” - Khalid Mir

“[When the Hindu community were offered an old church by the council to make into a Mandir (Hindu temple)] half of the roof was gone. When we were doing our prayers and it started to rain, we put out buckets and we all moved in that corner or in that corner. We struggled a lot. But god-willing, our fate was there. In 1976-77 we used to go and clean it, wash the stone, there was no carpet and we used to take blankets from our own house to put on the floor and sit. No heating system, no electricity, nothing. So we used to light hundreds of candles and do prayers. But god helped us, and now you can see the beautiful temple.” - Nila

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