The Cities and Town Planning Exhibition was originally conceived in conjunction with the first Town Planning Conference of 1910 organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects, at Burlington House, London, to mark the passing of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909. Patrick Geddes was asked to be its Director and used it to demonstrate his method of city survey. After the conference, Geddes toured the exhibition to cities interested in learning about the latest developments in planning including Dublin, Ghent (where it formed part of an international congress on cities), and also Edinburgh. In 1914, he was invited to take the exhibition to India, where he was to do much of his most important town planning work. The original Cities and Town Planning exhibition was lost at sea on its way to India.
Many of the drawings, photographs and prints are of Edinburgh streets and buildings. Of particular interest is the painting of `Thomas Hamilton`s Improvements` to the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, ca.1826 and a number of calotype prints by David Octavian Hill.