The Royal Museum of Scotland has finally reopened to the public after a £47 million (pounds Sterling) transformation. It’s a moment thousands of people from the capital city of Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra) and many visitors from around the world have been waiting for.
The light-filled Victorian building with its soaring Grand Gallery was cherished for generations as a gathering place and the Director Gordon Rintoul says the building that had for years been “a little bit sad and a little bit tired”, is now “an entirely new museum”.
According to the Scotsman newspaper Rintoul went on to say “We are entirely confident that those who knew the building almost won’t recognize it. Those visiting Edinburgh for the first time will be really quite surprised. In most capital cities of the world you might have to visit four or five museums to get what you have here in one place. Essentially it’s the whole world under one roof.”
The museum is set to regain its place as the leading public museum in the country with 8,000 objects on show, thanks to the Scottish scientists, collectors, and adventurers who brought them home.
Visitors will see changes from the moment they arrive at the building. Rather than clambering up the Royal Museum’s steps and pushing through vintage wooden doors, they now enter at street level, into a vaulted, roomy space with restaurant and shop, previously a storage basement.
An escalator leads up to the Grand Gallery, where the museum’s showpiece, cleared of clutter draws attention on artifacts from a boat-size Maori feast bowl retrieved from a cellar, to a Victorian roofed fountain. The balconies now has a new café and a stunning sculpture walk.
Highlights include the UK’s largest single museum installation, the Window of the World, where 800 objects are shown in a display running through three floors of the gallery, 18 meters high. Ranging from the world’s largest piece of scrimshaw—two giant sperm whale jawbones, with engravings of whales and whaling by 19th-century seamen – to stunning seashells, Buddhas, teapots, and a girder of the Tay Railway Bridge, which disastrously collapsed in 1879. (I’ll write more about the Tay Bridge in another post).
According to Alex Hayward, the museum’s keeper of science and technology, “We just assembled objects because they were surprising or beautiful or thought-provoking. The Window on the World includes 19th-century mechanical models, created at the museum, that operate on the touch of a child’s hand. He calls it a “cabinet of curiosities” for Scotland.
“The theme of the museum’s new approach comes is on show in the Discoveries gallery, just off the Grand Gallery, with highlight objects linking Scots to the exhibits as collectors, explorers or inventors. It ranges from the Assyrian relief donated by Sir James Young Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform, to a silver and coconut shell goblet with which James Bruce, the first European to survey the Blue Nile, toasted the health of George III in 1770. It’s also the new home of the popular Millenium Clock.”
“Really running through all these galleries is the Scottish thread,” says Rintoul. “It really emanates from that great tradition of adventurers, or entrepreneurs, or Scots in the world as colonial administrators or missionaries or engineers, and bringing things back, sending things back to Scotland. In many ways you’ve got the story of Scots engagement with the rest of the world.”
Click on the video “Behind the scenes at the revamped National Museum of Scotland”
The BBC video is worth a look too.