Three new galleries at the National Museum of Scotland open to the public on Friday.
These complete the 15-year, £80 million redevelopment which has created one of the world’s finest museums, presenting the wonders of nature, art and culture and the excitement of science and discovery, all under one roof.
National Museums Scotland has completed a highly ambitious transformation returning one of the finest Victorian buildings in Britain to its former glory, creating vibrant new public spaces and revealing its spectacular national collections, many of which had not previously been on display.
Bruce Minto, Chair of National Museums Scotland said: ‘This is a truly historic moment in the life of a great museum. The transformation of this iconic Victorian building on time and on budget is an achievement of which the nation can be rightly proud.
‘Our outstanding collections help us to tell a vast range of diverse and fascinating stories from across the globe highlighting the many Scots involved in invention, innovation and discovery. These stories have engaged our many supporters who have given generously to help us achieve our ambitions and to whom I am extremely grateful.’
The new galleries explore the remarkable cultural heritage of ancient Egypt and East Asia and the diversity of ceramics. Over 1300 objects have been selected for the galleries, 40% of which go on display for the first time in generations. Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, Exploring East Asia and the Art of Ceramics present internationally significant collections in compelling and inspiring ways.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland said: ‘Over the past 15 years we have worked tirelessly to transform this wonderful building, to rediscover our extensive and outstanding collections and to create fresh and inspirational visitor experiences. The result is the creation of a world-class museum for the enjoyment of national and international visitors today and for many generations to come.’
The opening of Ancient Egypt Rediscovered coincides with the 200th anniversary of the first ancient Egyptian objects entering National Museums Scotland’s collections. The gallery explores how this civilisation has evolved across more than 4,000 years of history and outstanding objects include the only intact royal burial group outside of Egypt, the only double coffin ever discovered in Egypt and a decorative box of King Amenhotep II.
Exploring East Asia celebrates the dynamic cultures of China, Japan and Korea, showcasing their diverse traditions, peoples and histories. National Museums’ East Asia collections are among the most important in the UK and represent over a century and a half of continuous collecting. Highlights include a Chinese lacquerware rice measure from the Ming dynasty, samurai armour and a rare and important Korean lotus-shaped cup and stand from the thirteenth century.
The Art of Ceramics unites themes from across the collections of National Museums Scotland. Ceramics is a highly versatile medium in art and science and the gallery celebrates the creativity and diversity reflected in pieces from across the world and over a broad time period, from the 19th century BC to the 21st century AD. Highlights include a 16th century Maiolica dish featuring a donkey playing a lute, an ancient Greek vase decorated with wrestlers dating to c. 475 – 450 BC, and a porcelain alcohol ewer from the Qing dynasty.
Acting Head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Scotland, Riona McMorrow, said: ‘The National Museum of Scotland is a museum of the people. Old and young have come together to wonder and delight at its mesmerising treasure trove of collections for over 150 years. Thanks to the people who play The National Lottery, we have been able to help fund its glorious transformation over the last 15 years.
‘This dearly-held Museum is now world-class, showcasing Scotland at its best while making a significant contribution to our culture, society and tourist economy. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is very proud to have been a partner in helping make that happen and looks forward to it inspiring generations to come.’
This £3.6m phase of the project has been made possible thanks to support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, the Sir James Miller Edinburgh Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Negaunee Foundation and a generous community of Trusts and individual donors.
The opening of the new galleries is supported by a national programme of activity to extend their reach and impact to partner museums across Scotland, by sharing collections, knowledge and expertise.