Victorian artist Thomas Stuart Smith (1815-1869) left a bequest to establish a museum, library, and gallery of contemporary art for the Stirling area, especially aimed at broadening the outlook of the artisan and working classes. The Smith Institute, as it was called, opened in 1874 on land given by the Burgh of Stirling.

Smith was keen for the art gallery part of his bequest to take center stage and wanted an Italianate building since he had fallen in love with Italy during his European travels. He intended to oversee the construction of his new institute himself, but he died suddenly on a trip to France. Aside from its role as an art gallery, ‘Stirling Smith’ has collected a huge archive of historical artifacts and paintings of Stirlingshire.

Themed collections include local history, British pewter, and world cultures. The Neish Collection of pewter is perhaps the finest single collection of pewter objects in the world.

Included are several rare items, such as a rosewater dish, crafted for King James VI’s Palace of Holyrood in 1600. Then there’s the official key of Stirling, taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, and Cowane’s Chest, carved from oak in 1636 and carried away by the Jacobites during the Second Rising.

In an excavation project at Stirling Castle, Scotland, UK in the mid-1970s, a grey, the leather ball was discovered behind oak paneling in a bedroom once used by Mary, Queen of Scots during her reign in the 16th century; it has since been declared the world’s oldest football. The ball was re-discovered in 1999 in the archives of Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and tests confirmed that it was 436 years old. Made of a pig’s bladder, it would not otherwise have survived.

According to Wikipedia/ britainexpress