newsletter - National Museums Scotland

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Issue 1                                                                                       Summer 2008

Welcome to the first edition of the
Royal Museum Project newsletter

          As you read this, part of the       as the Royal Museum Project,          of the 10th anniversary of the
          National Museum of Scotland will    aims to create a twenty-first         opening of the Museum of
          have closed its doors for a major   century museum experience;            Scotland building. Highlights
          re-development after a weekend      a place where the cultures of         include the opening in July of
          of resounding celebrations. The     Scotland and the world meet           our new permanent exhibition
          three year refurbishment, known     under one roof.                       Scotland: A Changing Nation,
                                                                                    a free lunchtime Scottish music
                                              The re-development will see
                                                                                    programme during August,
                                              storage areas transformed into
                                                                                    and in autumn the Treasured
                                              public space, dated displays
                                                                                    exhibition, focusing on a range
                                              completely transfromed and
                                                                                    of important or much loved
                                              access improved throughout to
                                                                                    museum objects.
                                              create a must-see attraction.
                                              When the museum re-opens              I would like to take this
                                              you will be able to enjoy a truly     opportunity to say a sincere
                                              world-class visitor experience with   thank you to everyone who has
                                              amazing treasures, increased          supported our work in so many
                                              educational facilities, new public    different ways. Your support and
                                              spaces and fascinating displays.      encouragement is fundamental
                                                                                    in helping us realise our
                                              Work is already underway to
                                                                                    ambitious plans.
                                              empty the galleries of collections
                                              before the building work starts.      We look forward to a busy
                                              We will have a few busy months        summer and to keeping you
                                              ahead packing and moving to           informed of our progress during
                                              the new purpose built storage         one of the most exciting phases
                                              building at our National              in our history.
                                              Museums Collection Centre.
                                              Everything, from tiny insects to
                                              large reptiles and mammals in
                                              the Natural Science galleries;
                                              fragile ceramics and glass from
                                              around the balconies; delicate
                                              textiles from the Middle East and
                                              Egyptian coffins.
                                              As the project moves ahead            Gordon Rintoul
                                              behind closed doors, a fascinating    Director
                                              programme of exhibitions and
                                              events will take place leading up
                                              to and including the celebration
Celebration Weekend

Au-Revoir not
Good Bye
The Royal Museum building opened its doors on
6–7 April for a fun filled and amazing weekend of
entertainment, history, arts and crafts to mark the
beginning of the three year Royal Museum Project.

The weekend’s celebrations got            An energetic Celebration Ceilidh kept
off to a flying start at a gala dinner    spirits high before the Red Hot Chili
on the Friday with over 260 guests        Pipers brought the weekend to an
being taken on a spectacular journey      end with a stirring closing ceremony
through the history of the Royal          hosted by Forth One presenter,
Museum building and its international     Grant Stott.
collections. Guests were treated to
                                          The celebrations offered visitors a
performances from colourful Chinese
                                          great opportunity to enjoy and show
dragon dancers, Indian classical
                                          their support of our museum as it
dancers, breathtaking aerial acts high
                                          reaches this significant milestone.
up under the vaulted ceiling in the
                                          While the extravaganza symbolized
Main Hall before the Tartan Dholis
                                          a farewell to part of the building for
Sikh drum and bagpipe duo beat the
                                          now, the transformation will be well
retreat at the end of a very fun filled
                                          worth the wait when the museum
and colourful evening.
                                          re-opens in 2011.
The following Saturday and Sunday
                                          Jane Ferguson
saw over 7,300 visitors through the
                                          Head of Marketing and
museum’s doors joining the fun
which included performances from
world renowned Red Hot Chilli Pipers,
various schools and a collection of
talented young traditional musicians
which all celebrated key stories in
the history of the museum and the
exciting developments to come.
Visitors were also taken on “last
chance tours” of the museum and
had an opportunity to get up close
and personal with museum objects.
Children were entertained by face
painters, stilt walkers, puppeteers,
treasure trails and jugglers, to name
but a few of the activities on offer.

       Royal Museum Project Newsletter
                                                                                          Behind the Scenes

Enabling Works
Before we can start on the major works to transform the museum into
an attraction fit for today’s and tomorrow’s audiences a range of
‘enabling’ work must take place.
A team of contractors have been working since October            out to transform the space into the new arrivals hall, shop
last year to install a new stair and lift in the West Wing of    and restaurant with associated facilities. Works to remove
the museum, carry out alterations to the services in the         the concrete floor slabs and form new openings in the
basement and install a new electrical substation.                basement walls are almost complete.
The new stair is needed to provide a fire escape route           The enabling works are progressing well and are planned
from Connect Gallery when the Main Hall of the Royal             for completion by 21 July 2008. Despite all the activity
Museum building is handed over to the contractor for             going on in the Royal Museum building, the Museum of
the main re-development works on 1 August 2008. The              Scotland building will not be affected and will remain open
services alterations are taking place to make sure that          to the public.
the National Museums Scotland continues to have all its
                                                                 The initial step in the re-development of the Royal Museum
services working whilst major demolition works takes place
                                                                 building is nearing completion!
in the basement over the next year. The work is carried
                                                                 Fiona Bell

Making a World of Difference
The Royal Museum Project is now more than halfway
towards its £12 million fundraising target thanks to the
generous support of many individual donors, trusts,
companies and foundations.
                   The museum recently      Stewart Galleries of World Cultures’.       grateful to those who have already
                   received its biggest     I am sure that Miss Stewart would have      offered their generous commitment and
                   ever legacy from         wished future generations to experience     welcome the future support of others.
                   patron, Miss Adèle       and learn from what the extended            Over the next three years, the National
                   Stewart, and now         facilities will boast when the Royal        Museums will continue to work with
                   £1.5 million of this     Museum Project completes in 2011”.          individuals, trusts, foundations and the
                   bequest has been                                                     corporate sector to secure the remaining
                                            Other major donations which have led
                   granted to the Royal                                                 funds to complete this important project
                                            to this fundraising milestone include
                   Museum Project.                                                      for Scotland.
                                            the Wolfson Foundation, The Gannochy
Commenting, Dr Gordon Rintoul,              Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation,      If you would like to find out how you
National Museums Scotland director          The Robertson Trust, The Binks Trust,       can ‘make a world of difference’ by
said: “Miss Stewart was a great             The Fidelity Foundation and The             supporting the Royal Museum Project,
supporter of our work and aspirations       Dunard Fund.                                please visit our website at
and we are honoured and touched that                                          
                                            National Museums Scotland is delighted
she has remembered us in this way. It                                                   or call 011 47 41.
                                            that so many supporters and donors
is our great pleasure to recognise her
                                            have already shared in our vision so        James Clayton-Jones
contribution by naming our planned
                                            early in the programme. We are very         Development Manager
new World Cultures wing, ‘The Adèle

                                                                                      Royal Museum Project Newsletter          

 A Grand Old Lady
 Following a weekend of celebrations to mark the beginning of the major
 transformation of the Royal Museum building on Chambers Street in
 Edinburgh, the greater part of the building will close its doors to the
 public until its grand re-opening in 2011.

 The long-planned refurbishment known as the Royal                      by Scottish chemist Joseph Black, the father of modern
 Museum Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and                chemistry. A specimen of the extinct Mauritius blue pigeon,
 the Scottish Government, is an ambitious £46.4 million                 one of only three in existence, the recently-discovered horns
 project that aims to renew and reinvent the magnificent                of the extinct bluebuck antelope and two birds collected by
 Victorian building into a museum fit for the 21st century              Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle are among the
 with modern facilities, services and displays.                         many unique and unusual animals to be found in the natural
                                                                        sciences collections.
 For almost 150 years the Royal Museum in the heart of
 Edinburgh’s Old Town has inspired visitors from around                 The building itself was inspired by London’s Crystal Palace,
 Scotland and across the world through its collections and              which was designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition. Although
 impressive architecture. Key items in the collections include          striking with its impressive grand gallery and exterior, time
 the massive Assyrian limestone relief of Ashurnasirpal II,             has now come for a major refurbishment of other parts
 16th Century warrior and horse armour from Tibet and                   of the building as many exhibitions are out-dated, access
 three magnificent Parisian silver-gilt services including the          is restricted and circulation routes are poor throughout.
 Emperor Napoleon’s tea service.The history of technology               The museum no longer meets the needs and demands
 and scientific exploration is well represented with highlights         of today’s increasingly diverse audience. Education and
 such as the oldest signed and dated astrolabe to have                  improving visitor access to the internationally important
 been made in Europe and rare scientific glassware used                 collections will be at the heart of the transformation project.

 Royal Museum Masterplan Timeline
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                            t                orag                 ril            ed J                        esig
                    tar t Oc             w st Jan
                                      ne on                en d Ap ay–Jul omplet Aug                    ry d
               ks s                 of nt               eek       t M rks c s Start                 lle
           Wor                  ion
                            plet ing Gr
                                       a            nW       ecan Wo        k                   d Ga Dec
    bl ing            Com build              b ratio llery d abling in Wor                 taile mplete
                                                                                         De co
Ena                                     Cele         Ga     En        Ma

                   008                                                                         009

                                                                When the museum re-opens its doors visitors will be able
                                                                to enjoy eye-catching new exhibitions, many of them
                                                                including objects not currently on display. For example
                                                                the new-look National Museum of Scotland will include
                                                                a dramatic Thunderbird mask and costume used in
                                                                traditional dance by the Kwakiutl people of Canada’s
                                                                Northwest Coast; a towering T-Rex you will be able to get
                                                                up close to in the new Natural World galleries; Alexander
                                                                Fleming’s Nobel Prize medal awarded in 1945 for his
                                                                discovery of penicillin; and a dazzling array of animals to
                                                                celebrate the diversity of life on earth.
                                                                Despite some areas being closed while we provide this
                                                                new National Museum of Scotland, more than half of
                                                                the building will remain open, including all the Scottish
                                                                galleries and the Connect galleries. A lively programme of
                                                                changing exhibitions, activities and workshops is in place
By creating a new street level arrivals hall, in what is        to ensure the National Museum of Scotland is still a ‘ must
currently the basement, improving visitor circulation           see’ on your vist to Edinburgh.
by installing glass lifts and escalators, creating 16 new
                                                                Admission to the National Museum of Scotland is free.
engaging galleries and by doubling the objects on
                                                                It is open to visitors daily 10.00–17.00.
display, the museum will make the transition into a truly
world-class National Museum of Scotland to be enjoyed           Further information on the Royal Museum Project
by generations to come. The museum will offer a range           and its exhibits can be found at:
of improved public spaces including new cafés, shops  
and learning and information zones making it an ideal           Jem Fraser
meeting place in the heart of the Scottish capital for          Royal Museum Project Director
visitors of all ages.

                                                                    p     Sep p                                                  Jun
                                                               d Se ted                                                    plete
                                                         p lete nstruc start Se                                        com
                                                     com y co        ut                                      fit-o
                                                orks Librar ry fit-o                                   ery
                                             n WNew         e                                     Gall
                                        M ai           Gall
                                                                                                                Grand Re-opening
  010                                                                   011
 Minute Interview

Bruce Minto
Chairman of the Royal Museum Campaign Board and
Managing Partner, Dickson Minto WS
                                              ‘clutter’, which was not part of the    ‘The orrery on the
                                              original design and thus ensuring
                                              that a few truly unique objects can     second floor never fails
                                              be viewed in that setting.              to fascinate both young
                                           4. Refreshing certain dated parts of       and old alike and it really
                                              the building
                                                                                      defines the world under
                                           Why is the Royal Museum Project
                                           Campaign appealing to you?
                                                                                      one roof’
                                           It offers a great opportunity to be part
Being from Scotland, what does the                                                    What might surprise people
                                           of a project which aims to restore this
Royal Museum mean to you?                                                             about your work?
                                           magnificent Victorian idea into one fit
The Royal Museum is part of everyone       for the 21st century; making it relevant   I think people would be surprised at
in my generation’s childhood. It was       and accessible for today’s audience        the sheer number of people from all
the place our fathers took us when                                                    walks of life and social strata that I
                                           What do you deem the greatest
it rained and our mothers were out                                                    meet, in my role as a Chairman of
                                           success of the campaign so far?
shopping. I remember all the buttons                                                  the Campaign Board, who are both
you were allowed to press (it was one      Being able to start the project on time!   interested and easily convinced of the
of the few places you were allowed to      What objects in the Royal Museum do        importance of the refurbishment.
press buttons) and the model steam         you particularly like?                     What challenges does the
engines and lights.                                                                   project face?
                                           I really like the Millennium Clock in
If you take the time and trouble to        the Grand Gallery and also the James       First of all the refurbishment is a big
visit the museum in bite sizes you         Ritchie Clock at the opposite end of       engineering challenge which is not
cannot fail to be amazed by the unique     the museum. I look forward to the          to be underestimated, especially the
collections Scottish people managed        Millennium Clock being moved to a          creation of the new street level floor.
to bring together in the past or to be     place between the escalators for the       However Scots have a great history
impressed by the amazing feats and         re-opening as visitors will get a better   of great engineers so I have every
legacies of our ancestors in terms of      view of the whole clock and therefore      confidence they will do a splendid job.
Scottish inventions and discoveries.       appreciate the many fine details better.
                                                                                      The project also needs to ensure it
What aspects of the refurbishment do       If visitors to the Museum only got         causes minimum disruption to the
you look forward to most?                  to see one object what would you           adjacent Museum of Scotland building
There are four main aspects of the         recommend this object should be?           which will remain open as usual to the
project I look forward to most:            The orrery on the second floor never       public. Further challenges will include
                                           fails to fascinate both young and old      delivering the project on time and on
1. The new street level access.                                                       budget and that the right balance
                                           alike and it really defines the world
2. The escalators and lifts being          under one roof and being on the            is struck between attraction and
   installed to provide better access to   second floor, visitors would enjoy so      educational value.
   objects and collections in otherwise    many other collections on the journey
   rarely visited galleries.               to that floor.
3. The Grand Gallery being restored to
   its original magnificence and firmly    The Campaign Board are a volunteer group of champions whose advice and
   establishing it as one of the finest    support of the Royal Museum Project is furthering our progress towards our
   rooms in Britain by removing all the    fundraising target of £1 million.

6       Royal Museum Project Newsletter

A much loved object in the museum has stood looking
out over the Main Hall for the past 70 years.
Weituo is an important 18th century      London in pieces. In this sad state the      Weituo is represented as a general
ceramic sculpture from Henan, China.     sculpture was no longer of interest to       wearing a tall helmet and a full suit
Large sculptures of Weituo, one of       the London art dealer, who promptly          of gold chainmail armour secured at
the guardians of the Buddhist law        sold him. After three months of              the waist by a belt decorated by a
(dharma), are often found at the         careful restoration here at the              monster’s head. He is often shown
gates of Chinese temples. The story      museum, Weituo was finally brought           with a sword but our sculpture holds a
of how the sculpture ended up in         back to his original splendour and put       sceptre across his arms and his hands
the museum so far from home is an        on display. A reminder of his ordeal         meet in the position of prayer.
adventure in itself.                     can be spotted if you look carefully.
                                                                                      When the museum re-opens after the
                                         Originally thought to represent
Orignally bought by a London art                                                      transformation you will find Weituo in
                                         Guanyin, a divine being more
dealer who mistook both his age and                                                   the Sculpture Gallery on the second
                                         generally known in the West, the
identity, Weituo had to endure a very                                                 floor, not far from where he used
                                         museum curator correctly identified
bumpy ride from China inadequately                                                    to stand.
                                         our statue during restoration.
packed in a crate, and arrived in

National Museums
Collection Centre
To enable the transformation of the
Royal Museum many of the much loved
objects in the museum have had to find a
temporary home until the museum
re-opens in 2011.
From November 2004 to July 2005 the collections in the        significant element. The new Collections Centre at
East Wing galleries and basement of the Royal Museum          Granton will do much more than merely extend the
building were removed and stored at the National              current storage facility. The plan is to move the collections
Museums’ 10.5 acre Collection Centre at Granton, north        into purpose designed accommodation so that they are
Edinburgh. The large storage building, completed in 1996,     accessible to visitors and students alike. As well as the
provides 80,000 square metres of storage and includes         collections the work that is undertaken to understand and
the largest conservation laboratories and workshops           maintain them, in fact the whole behind-the-scenes
in Scotland. In 2007 a new Conservation building was          infrastructure of the museum, will be explained and where
completed on this site.                                       possible brought much more into the public domain. Due
                                                              to the extensive work being undertaken at the site at
In January of this year a new storage building was
                                                              present the centre is not open to the public but visits will
completed to take many of the objects from the
                                                              be possible in 2009.
basement areas in the Royal Museum building. The
project in the Granton area is part of a huge urban           Wendy Turner
regeneration scheme within which our facility is a            Head of Collections Management

                                                                                   Royal Museum Project Newsletter         7
Exhibitions and Events
Your Museum
is Changing
A special exhibition called Your Museum is Changing                                   depression of those queuing it was not
                                                                                      a happy experience. Not like today!”
was open to the public in the run up to partial closing.
                                                                                      “I remember coming here when I was
The exhibition explored the changes         have spent many hours with my little      about five years old. Looking up in the
that have taken place over the years        brother in the new Egyptian section,      main hall, I thought it must have been
through a unique and fascinating            explaining the Dioramas and making        the tallest building in the world! It
collection of archived footage and          up stories about life in Ancient Egypt.   reached right up to the skies! So glad it
images and used illustrations and           When he was still a baby we also spent    will be restored to its old glory...”
animation to reflect the changes            lots of time in the geology section,      “To see so many children amazed in a
that will take place, what galleries will   watching the minerals glow under          museum, learning through interactive
be developed and the timetable of           different lights, although I think he     exhibits. A new generation of visistors
the work.                                   had more fun telling people the light     and museums has been born, welcome
                                            had gone! The Museum has been             to the 21st century! Thank you for
Visitors to the exhibition were
                                            a huge part of my life and I hope it      teaching us so many things in an
encouraged to write down their
                                            continues as such for years to come.”     attractive way!”
memories of the musem and below
is a selection of museum memories           “…over the years various exhibits have    “My dad taking me to the museum,
collected from the exhibition.              attracted and inspired me. In many        just as I am taking my daughter
                                            ways the museum has encouraged            today.”
“Running around the old engineering
                                            a sense of national and personal
hall as a wee boy, pressing all the                                                   “I spent most of my weekends here
                                            identity. Thank you for that.”
buttons to try and get the engines                                                    when I was younger. The place is so
working all at the same time!               “My earliest memories were during         full of amazing exhibits I don’t think
And staring at the fish for what            the dark days of World War II. The        I’ve managed to see it all yet! Whilst I
seemed like hours.”                         Main Hall was empty of exhibits and       am sad to see the Museum temporarily
                                            fish tanks and filled with wooden         close I am sure that the refurb will
“I have loved this museum and it is
                                            trestle tables covered with grey          prove to reinforce the ‘Royal’ Museum
so much fun. I have been here before
                                            army blankets. Each table had an          as one of the best in the world. For
and I never wanted to get out. THIS
                                            initial letter and an endless queue       the time being, I will be here every
                                            of people reported to the table their     weekend ‘til it closes. Thanks for all
“My first memories of the museum            surname indicated. Each person then       those amazing childhood memories.”

                                                                                                                                      National Museums Scotland, Scottish Charity, No SC 01110
are of coming to see the model trains.      received a new ration book containing
I loved going around pushing the            coupons enabling them to buy food
little red buttons and watching the         and clothing. The thing I remember
trains come to life. More recently I        best was the extreme sadness and

                                            If you would like to find out how you can
                                            ‘make a world of difference’ by supporting the
                                            Royal Museum Project, please visit our website at
                                            or call 011 47 41.

                                                                                           The Royal Museum Project is supported by

8       Royal Museum Project Newsletter