Museum relaunch opens doors

The National Museum of Scotland reopens its doors this summer after a £47 million redevelopment.

Wildlife panorama at National Museum of Scotland

Among the items on display, 80% of which will be seen for the first time, several tell the tale of the University’s relationship with the Museum.

The two institutions are more than just neighbours. They share a common history and active links today.

A museum reborn

In 2008 Gareth Hoskins Architects were commissioned to reinvigorate the Victorian part on the National Museum of Scotland.

Three years later, the 19th century spectacle of the Grand Gallery has been restored and 16 new display areas have been created.

This is a proud moment in the history of a great museum: the climax of a once-in-a-lifetime transformation through which we have rediscovered our exceptional collections, and breathed new life into a beautiful building. The spectacular redevelopment of the museum provides an opportunity to expand the range of events we offer alongside the dramatic new displays.

Dr Gordon RintoulDirector National Museums Scotland

In the beginning

The Grand Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland

When the Museum was founded in 1854, the basis of its initial natural science collection was the University’s teaching collection.

So close were the ties that when Francis Fowke’s Chambers Street masterpiece was opened in 1866, it was joined to the University’s Old College buildings via Edinburgh’s own Bridge of Sighs.

The Museum’s founding director was George Wilson, who was also the University’s Chair of Technology.

He started assembling the collections from 1855 but died in 1859 before the Fowke’s building was finished.

Contemporary projects

A child builds lego robots at Discover Science's 'Robofun'.

The links, both physical and academic, continue to this day.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival’s annual Discover Science strand is a joint project.

The University and Museum have also recently won funding from the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres to develop DNA workshops for school children.

From September this year the University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning will run joint courses with the Museum in its new learning centre. The redeveloped building has trebled the amount of educational space.

The Museum is working with the music staff and students at the University on the Sounds Global project, part of London 2012 cultural Olympiad.

The University’s music students tested the specially-commissioned instruments, designed by Victor Gama, in the Museum’s new Performance and Lives gallery.

In September 2010 the museum ran a one-day conference on the Lewis Chessmen, supported by the University’s History of Art department.

The University is looking forward to seeing the reopened National Museum of Scotland. It is going to be amazing. We have worked in partnership with the museum over many years and the new space will make our events during the Edinburgh International Science Festival even better. We have more events planned throughout the year that will complement the new galleries.

Professor Mary BownesVice Principal

Academic ties

The Museum also has strong links with several of the University’s subject areas and centres including:

  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Centre of Canadian Studies
  • Japanese Studies
  • Chinese Studies
  • The College of Science and Engineering
  • The Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies
  • The School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Photography: Courtesy National Museums Scotland and Edinburgh International Science Festival.

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