Many of the historic papers of Patrick Geddes are now (2020) housed in the Archives and Special Collections services of the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde, the National Library of Scotland, and a small proportion at Historic Environment Scotland, as well as other institutions. The history of the collections is complex, each part having been in the care of multiple custodians and subject to multiple physical relocations before reaching their current homes. Additional material is held in private hands and other institutions across the world, some of which has been identified, but other part or whole collections are yet to be uncovered.
In 1892, Patrick Geddes purchased a six-storey building on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. He developed this once public observatory into a civic museum; an education tool aimed at the urban planner and the citizen. He named it the Outlook Tower. Here, Geddes amassed a vast collection of maps, views, plans, architectural drawings, photographs and other visual images. The Outlook Tower collections included his Survey of Edinburgh (commenced in the early 1890s), and material from his early exhibitions in Paris (1900), Glasgow (1901) and London (1910). Geddes' Cities and Town Planning Exhibition (first displayed in London in February 1911) emerged from the collections at the Outlook Tower. Between 1911 and 1914 Geddes toured his Cities and Town Planning Exhibition around the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe, including visits to Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Ghent and Paris. Composed of over 4000 exhibits, the original Cities and Town Planning Exhibition was lost at sea on board the SS Clan Grant during transit to India in 1914.
A replacement exhibition was assembled under the direction of Geddes' colleague and friend, the architect, Henry Vaughan Lanchester (1863-1953), and shipped to India in December 1914. It is this replacement exhibition, including material relating to Geddes' Survey of Edinburgh, that makes up much of the surviving collections material at both the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde. Additional papers at the University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections, brought together by Patrick Geddes' youngest son Arthur Geddes (1895-1968) include textual records, pamphlets, books, maps, plans, photographs, prints and drawings relating to all of Geddes' life and work up until his death in 1932. The National Library of Scotland also holds some Cities and Town Planning Exhibition material along with multiple series of Geddes' and his family's correspondence.
Between 1914 and 1924, Patrick Geddes toured the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition around India during his 10 years there. Throughout his time in India, Geddes surveyed over 30 Indian cities as he fulfilled multiple requests for advice on city improvements. He served as the inaugural Chair of Sociology and Civics at the then University of Bombay from 1919-1924. Geddes relocated to Montpellier, France, in 1924. Here he founded the Scots' College and he remained in Montpellier until his death in 1932. In 1927, the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition was boxed in tea chests and shipped from India to the Scots' College in Montpellier. After Geddes' death his son, Arthur Geddes, sent these tea chests containing the exhibition to London in 1947. These were to be inspected by town planner Jacqueline Tyrwhitt (1905-1983) on behalf of the Association for Planning and Regional Reconstruciton (APRR; an affiliate of the Town Planning Institute) with a view to purchasing the material. At this time, additional material which had been stored at More's Garden, Patrick Geddes' University Settlement in Chelsea, was selected by Tyrwhitt to be re-united with the material arriving from France. The APRR did not purchase the collection, although in November 1948, Tyrwhitt along with Professor Sir George Pepler (1882-1959), town planner, organised an exhibition in London with selected illustrations from Geddes' Cities and Town Planning Exhibition.
This meant that in 1948, collections material was to be found across at least four locations: More's Garden, University College London, on loan to Pepler and Tyrwhitt, and at the Outlook Tower. Between 1948 and 1954, collections at the Outlook Tower were temporarily removed to allow refurbishment work to take place. In the early 1950s, Arthur Geddes, by then a lecturer in geography at the University of Edinburgh, undertook a visiting professorship to the University of California. He selected sample material from the collections at the Outlook Tower and took it with him to California in the hope that the University of California would purchase the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition. Between 1947 and 1955, the collections had been subject to multiple relocations and significant dispersal. Much damage to the exhibits seems to have happened at this stage, according to a statement of losses and assets drawn up around 1955 by the Outlook Tower Association (founded by Arthur Geddes in 1948).
Material from the Tyrwhitt and Pepler exhibition was placed in the care of the University of Edinburgh's Professor Percy Johnson-Marshall (1915-1933), town planner, and newly appointed senior lecturer at the University's School of Architecture. The Trustees of the Outlook Tower sold the remaining material in 1955 to Dr Thomas Findlay Lyon (1911-1973), a lecturer in town planning at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow. The Royal Technical College was succeeded by the University of Strathclyde in 1964.
In 1949, the Outlook Tower was sold by the Town and Gown Association to Castlehill Properties Ltd, a trust which included members of the Geddes family. Perchy Johnson-Marshall and Professor Robert Matthew created the School of Architecture at the University of Edinburgh in 1959, in which they developed a course in Civic Design. The intention was to repair and restore the Outlook Tower in which could be housed a newly formed Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies for the University of Edinburgh. In order to allow refurbishment work to proceed, Johnson-Marshall together with Castlehill Properties Trust arranged for the archive collections to be cleared from the Outlook Tower and stored temporarily in University of Edinburgh premises. Some material appears to have been lost at this stage and, undoubtedly, further losses are likely to have occurred because of multiple subsequent moves.
Between 1959 and 1989 the Patrick Geddes archives were relocated no less than 8 times, including spending a number of years concealed in the bricked-up attic of 58 George Square, Edinburgh. The Patrick Geddes Archives returned to the Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies at the Outlook Tower in 1989, with the exception of a small proportion of collections material which was placed with the then Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments for Scotland (succeeded by Historic Environment Scotland). From 1989, the Patrick Geddes Archives remained at the Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies at the Outlook Tower until its transfer to the University of Edinburgh Archives and Special Collections in the late 1990s / early 2000s.