The National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, set against a series of rocky hills overlooking the sea. It is a town that complements its gorgeous landscape, with buildings and monuments perched atop crags and hidden between cliffs – in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘a dream in masonry and living rock’.


The Edinburgh Castle in the background.. Thomas Guthrie – Preacher and Philanthropist 

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Scotland’s national museum. The National Museum of Scotland is an impressive building indeed. With 16 new galleries and home to over eight thousand objects, it has more than enough artifacts to keep you occupied for an entire day.

The museum apparently reopened on July 29th 2011, following a major redevelopment costing over £47m. This programme actually transformed the Victorian part of the National Museum of Scotland (formerly the Royal Museum) to increase exhibition space and provide easier access to the museum. Scottish architect Gareth Hoskins and exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum are the two men responsible for the end product you see today.


Objects from the Natural World collection – including sea mammals and a spectacular 12 metre-long, life-sized skeleton cast of a T.rex 

Formed in 2006, the National Museum of Scotland is a merger between the Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the Royal Museum next door, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The two connected buildings stand beside each other on Chambers Street, by the intersection with the George IV Bridge, in central Edinburgh. The museum is part of National Museums Scotland and admission is free.


The light filled antrium of the main gallery,  with soaring pillars and high windows. The museum looks deceptively small, but as you wander into their breakout rooms on different floors, you will loose yourself in a huge world of wonder

The centrepiece of the museum’s Victorian Grand Gallery is Window on the World, a four-storey installation which rises from the ground floor to the roof and showcases 850 objects from the museum’s collections, ranging from the Pembridge helm (one of only four surviving 13th-century knight’s helmets, brought to Edinburgh by the artist Sir Joseph Noel Paton), to a four-seater racing bicycle and a full size railway signal from the Stirling to Alloa line. Exhibits are diverse and range from a life-sized skeleton cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex to specimens collected by Charles Darwin and 3,000-year-old mummies.


Fascinating Mummies reveals people from the past who lived, worked and died over 2,000 years ago. That mummies should have survived through so many centuries is almost miraculous

The museum incorporates the collections of the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, and the Royal Museum. As well as the main national collections of Scottish archaeological finds and medieval objects, the museum contains artifacts from around the world, encompassing geology, archaeology, natural history, science, technology and art.


Under Science and Technology – Dolly the Sheep

Another one of the more notable exhibits is the stuffed body of Dolly the sheep, the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell. Other highlights include Ancient Egyptian exhibitions and a large kinetic sculpture named the Millennium Clock.


The Millennium Clock

The Crypt at the base of the tower houses an intricate combination of wheels and chains. Two figures are at the heart of this section -an oak figure of an Ancient Spirit and the colourful, mischievous Egyptian Monkey. The Nave holds a pendulum with a skeletal death figure straddling a convex mirror. Distorted figures of Lenin, Hitler and Stalin are creepy, but act as a reminder of the worst aspects of the twentieth century. But wait.. as you gaze up into the Millennium clock, there is celebration of better times, too, with a playground of animated characters, including a Chaplin-like figure.


Higher still is The Belfry, which accommodates the clock and the Requiem, a circle of twelve figures. Each represents a calendar month, as well as a hardship or tragedy that has afflicted humanity, from war to famine, slavery to persecution. The clock face is the most contemporary part of the tower with its brightly-coloured glass panels.

The precision of the clock counteracts the chaos seen elsewhere in the tower. Right at the top of the clock tower is The Spire, empty apart from its bell. A figure stands at the very top, a female figure carrying a dead man. This is the Pietà, from the Italian for compassion and pity. The Millennium clock was really one of the other great highlights for me, at the museum. Further information about the new galleries is available on the website of the National Museum.

My trip to Scotland was sponsored by Visit Scotland, Scotland’s National Tourism Board.
Follow this trip on twitter via the hashtag – #creativescotland 


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