Robert Burns and "Auld Lang Syne"

December 9, 2011, through February 5, 2012
Image of Auld Lang Syne manuscript

Every December 31, tens of millions of people raise their voices with friends and family in a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne," bidding farewell to the past year and looking forward to a promising new one. But how did a traditional Scots folk song—with lyrics that many people scarcely understand—emerge as one of the world's most enduring popular songs? With manuscripts and letters of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759–1796), rare printed editions, and audio selections, this highly focused exhibition explores the origins of a song that began as an old Scots poem and air and evolved into a globally shared expression of friendship and longing.

Learn the whole song

This exhibition was made possible by a generous gift in honor of Mr. Thomas Burns Reid and Mrs. Mary Theresa Reid.

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Image Caption: 

Robert Burns (1759–1796). "Auld Lang Syne." (detail) Autograph manuscript written within a letter, dated [September 1793], to George Thomson. MA 47.27.