Collections of historic and scientific material have been seen, particularly from the eighteenth century, as an aid to understanding both the present and the past. The study of these collections and how they were formed is an important aspect of intellectual history as well as providing a tool for assessing the purposes of collections today. Here Dr Waterston tells the story of the museum of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, its collections and their donors, for the first time. Before the foundation of the Society, the character of museums had changed from displays of curiosities to didactic institutions central to research and teaching in many disciplines, making the nature of the museum and its collections a matter of the utmost cultural importance. The history of the Society's museum is a microcosm demonstrating the evolving perception and function of museums. Dr Waterston concludes with a review of current directions in today's challenging climate.