With over 3.1 million visits across all our museums, and nearly 2.2 million visitors to the National Museum of Scotland, we have enhanced our position as one of the most popular museum groups in the world.

New for 2018

Engaging exhibitions

The centenary of the end of the First World War was marked by the opening of The Poppy: A Symbol of Remembrance at the National War Museum. Featuring loans from Poppy Scotland and the Lady Haig Poppy Factory, the exhibition explores the origins of the symbolism of the poppy from the famous poem, 'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae and its adoption as a symbol of remembrance.

On loan from London’s Natural History Museum, the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition celebrated the diversity of the natural world, from intimate animal portraits to astonishing wild landscapes. The exhibition is the result of the most prestigious photography event of its kind, providing a global platform that showcases the natural world’s most astonishing and challenging sights.

Pilgrim, the Bald Eagle, and his handler visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, as part of a special viewing for the media. Photo by Neil Hanna.

Above: Pilgrim, the Bald Eagle, and his handler visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, as part of a special viewing for the media.

Art of Glass examined the diverse work of 15 established and emerging glass artists. Presented in partnership with The National Centre for Craft & Design, the exhibition explored how artists are embracing the medium of glass in innovative ways, challenging the perception of it as merely a material for creating functional objects.

The first major exhibition on the subject, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop brought together nearly 500 objects, many on loan from some of the biggest names in Scottish pop, and featuring the voices of the artists and their music. Rip It Up also heralded a major partnership with BBC Scotland, which saw the creation of accompanying TV and radio series. The results have been a resounding critical and reputational success, with UK national print and broadcast coverage, four and five star reviews and ringing endorsements from many high-profile contributors to the exhibition.

Visitors enjoy Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, the summer exhibition  at the National Museum of Scotland. Image by Chris Scott.

Above: Visitors enjoy Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, the summer exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. Image by Chris Scott.

Glenmorangie partnership

The continuation this year of our longstanding partnership with The Glenmorangie Company has enabled us to create the exhibition Scotland’s Early Silver and take it on a national tour. The exhibition showcases the latest fruits of our innovative ten-year research partnership with Glenmorangie.

Festival focus

The National Museum of Scotland partnered with the variety of Festivals on offer in the city. We celebrated the 30th year of the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April with interactive activities, workshops, shows and talks. The Museum also hosted the opening weekend of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival in May.

A highlight of the Edinburgh International Science Festival was Event Horizon, an enormous balloon installation in the Grand Gallery by renowned artist Jason Hackenwerth.

Above: A highlight of the Edinburgh International Science Festival was Event Horizon, an enormous balloon installation in the Grand Gallery by renowned artist Jason Hackenwerth.

In August, visitors enjoyed three weeks of Free Fringe Music themed around our summer exhibition, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop. The Museum After Hours events were again all sold out, showcasing 39 Fringe acts across three consecutive Friday nights, whilst our successful relationship with fringe producers Gilded Balloon presented 27 days of inspiring and diverse programming at the Museum

The six singing wives of Henry VIII performing for us before heading off to London’s West End.

Above: The six singing wives of Henry VIII performing at Museum After Hours before heading off to London’s West End.

Q & A with an astronaut

 In May, European Space Agency Astronaut Tim Peake visited the National Museum of Scotland to unveil his Soyuz spacecraft, which went on display as part of a national tour. Helping with the unveiling were pupils from Dunipace Primary School in Falkirk, who were also given the opportunity to put their space-based questions to the astronaut himself.

European Space Agency Astronaut, Tim Peake at the unveiling of his Soyuz spacecraft display at the National Museum of Scotland.

Above: European Space Agency Astronaut, Tim Peake at the unveiling of his Soyuz spacecraft display at the National Museum of Scotland.

Year of Young People

Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop presented us with the opportunity to form an innovative partnership with Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Arts and Creative Industries and Business School. A group of students were tasked with promoting the exhibition to a target audience of their peers. Their response to the brief was Future Features, in which current and emerging young musicians were filmed in the National Museum of Scotland.

Above: Dunfermline band Dancing on Tables perform in the Energise gallery at the National Museum of Scotland as part of a project with Napier University to engage with young audiences alongside Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop.

Above: Dunfermline band Dancing on Tables perform in the Energise gallery at the National Museum of Scotland as part of a project with Napier University to engage with young audiences alongside Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop.

Across the country

Our commitment to making an impact beyond the walls of our museums continues to be fulfilled through our National Strategy.  

Our core national activity – object loans, touring exhibitions and collection skills development to museums across Scotland – has this year been enhanced by a programme of activity focused on the themes of two of the upcoming new galleries at the National Museum of Scotland: ancient Egypt and East Asia, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

You can read more about the project on our blog.

A pupil from Perth High School displays the community robe she helped to create as part of the exhibition, Dress to Impress at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. © Perthshire Picture Agency.

Above: A pupil from Perth High School displays the community robe she helped to create as part of the exhibition, Dress to Impress at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. © Perthshire Picture Agency.

International collaboration

Monkeys on tour

Monkeys! A Primate Story, the first major exhibition created by National Museums Scotland to tour internationally, continues to impress visitors around the globe. Featuring 60 spectacular new taxidermy specimens and skeletons of monkeys, apes, lemurs and bushbabies, it also contains a range of interactives, films, models and carefully selected photographs.

You can find out more about the tour here.

International gold research

In partnership with colleagues at National Museums Wales, we secured funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to establish an international research network to learn more about gold in prehistoric Britain. You can find out more about the project here.

A basket-shaped hair ornament, one of a pair found in an Early Bronze Age grave at Orbliston, Moray, is one of the key objects being researched as part of an international gold research project.

Above: A basket-shaped hair ornament, one of a pair found in an Early Bronze Age grave at Orbliston, Moray, is one of the key objects being researched as part of an international gold research project.

ICOM Conference

More than 85 representatives from museums around the globe came together at the National Museum of Scotland for Working Locally, Thinking Globally, the 6th Working Internationally Conference, organised by the International Council of Museums (ICOM UK) and National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC).

American Foundation for National Museums Scotland

In 2017, funds raised by the American Foundation supported the ongoing transformation of the National Museum of Scotland, helped us make significant and supported groundbreaking art and archaeology research projects. June 2018 marked the successful launch of a new US Patrons programme.

Making the collections accessible

STEM Engagement

The strength of our Science & Technology collections makes them an outstanding resource for creating meaningful connections between the public and themes of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Through Powering Up, a project funded by the ScottishPower Foundation, we are able to deliver STEM activities through our schools outreach programme and digital channels to engage hard-to-reach audiences beyond the walls of our museums. You can find out more about STEM engagement at our museums here.

The Powering Up project in action. Photos © Ian Jacobs Photography.

Above: The Powering Up project in action. Photo © Ian Jacobs Photography.

Museum Socials

Our monthly events for anyone affected by dementia and their relatives, friends and supporters go from strength to strength. The Museum Socials sessions, which have attracted over 250 participants, are relaxed and informal, featuring a range of activities inspired by our collections and lots of tea and cake.

Google Museum View

The National Museum of Scotland has become the first museum or gallery in Scotland available for exploration online via Google Arts & Culture’s Museum View experience. You can explore the Museum virtually here.

Open all hours

Early Doors events enable autistic children and their families to enjoy galleries, exhibitions and activities outside the National Museum of Scotland’s busy public opening hours. This year 150 people took part in events to engage families with our forthcoming Exploring East Asia and Ancient Egypt Rediscovered galleries. They also explored the exhibition Scotland’s Early Silver and the Natural World galleries, inspired by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Getting to know Myrtle

A model dairy cow has been introduced at the farm at the National Museum of Rural Life to help visitors get to grips with dairy farming by trying out their milking skills. We asked our followers on Facebook and Twitter to #NameOurCoo. The result was unanimous, and Myrtle has now become a firm favourite at the site. 

Building the collections

Red Arrows Hawk

The acquisition of a British Aerospace Hawk T1A has significantly enhanced our aviation collection. The Hawk, which was flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows, is the only Red Arrows Hawk on display in any UK museum. The iconic aircraft was donated by the Ministry of Defence through RAF Heritage and is on permanent display at the National Museum of Flight.

Above: Flight Officer Scott Bagshaw from the RAF helps to get the Red Arrow Hawk T1A ready for display to the public.

Above: Flight Officer Scott Bagshaw from the RAF helps to get the Red Arrow Hawk T1A ready for display to the public. Photo by Neil Hanna.

Mackintosh washstand

With generous support from Art Fund and the National Museums Scotland Charitable Trust, we have acquired a rare and important wash stand by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A highly significant example of Scottish 20th-century design, the piece was added to the permanent displays at the National Museum of Scotland to mark the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth

Collecting contemporary objects

This year we welcomed a new addition to our Science & Technology collection – one of the largest in recent years – the flare tip from the recently decommissioned Murchison Oil Platform. For our Scottish History & Archaeology collection we acquired a pair of contemporary Sneachda skis and a Gaelic-English road sign from the Isle of Skye.

The rare 1917 wash stand by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (left). Wooden Sneachda skis made by Lonely Mountain Skis of Birnam, with pyrography engraving of rutting stags, 2018 (right).

Above: The rare 1917 wash stand by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (left). Wooden Sneachda skis made by Lonely Mountain Skis of Birnam, with pyrography engraving of rutting stags, 2018 (right).

Behind the scenes at the museum

New conservation studios

The National Museums Collection Centre continues to grow as an active and vibrant hub for collections access, research, storage and the long term preservation of our collections. This year we opened a £3.4 million extension to our existing conservation and collection science facilities, increasing our capacity to conserve, research and prepare collections for exhibition and loan projects as well as our growing programme of national and international touring exhibitions. 

Volunteers

In the last year our Volunteer Programme supported almost 450 people in a range of opportunities across the organisation. One focus this year has been on widening access to the collections through increasing our offer of guided tours, including our youngest ever Volunteer Guide who, at just 17 years old is taking visitors on Gaelic tours at the National Museum of Scotland, and the training of three British Sign Language Volunteer Guides.

Lachlan Peel, a Gaelic tour guide takes visitors around the Animal World gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.

Above: Lachlan Peel, a Gaelic tour guide takes visitors around the Animal World gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.

Improved sustainability

We are proud to have retained Green Tourism Awards for all of our museums, with the National Museum of Rural Life and the National Museum of Flight attaining Gold Awards this year. We continue to work to reduce our carbon footprint through introducing new LED lighting and controls, the active monitoring of energy meters and replacing chillers with new high efficiency plant, leading to a reduction of approximately 1000 tonnes of CO2 since last year.

A biobank for the future

Our collection of frozen animal tissue samples is playing a pivotal role in establishing a UK-wide hub where researchers can access animal tissue to extract DNA for use in research and conservation planning. Thanks to a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the CryoArks Project will create an online database of tissue samples, the development of a common standard for their storage and the opportunity for comparative research.

Principle Curator, Dr Andrew Kitchener examines tissue samples to be included in the online database for the CryoArks Project.

Above: Principal Curator, Dr Andrew Kitchener examines tissue samples to be included in the online database for the CryoArks Project.

Future plans

Cause for celebration

In February 2019, we will open the final new galleries in the £80 million, 15 year transformation of the National Museum of Scotland. This final phase of restoration will unveil three entirely new galleries with compelling and inspiring interpretations of our Ancient Egypt, East Asia and Ceramic collections and a nationwide programme of associated activity. This transformation has brought the National Museum of Scotland tremendous national and international recognition and more than trebled its visitor attendance, making it one of the top 30 museums in the world.

A mummified man is carefully conserved ahead of going on display in the new Ancient Egypt Rediscovered gallery.

Above: A mummified man is carefully conserved ahead of going on display in the new Ancient Egypt Rediscovered gallery.

Ready for take-off

Planning has begun for the next stage of development at the National Museum of Flight, an entirely new hangar to be built on land right next to the Museum’s home at historic East Fortune Airfield. The new building is needed to help us protect historically important aircraft and would also provide a permanent home for the Museum’s star attraction, Scotland’s Concorde, and give us the opportunity to significantly improve the experience for visitors to the Museum by creating a new entrance with better public facilities.

With thanks

Our work is made possible by a community of supporters who are passionate about our museums. Our Members, Patrons and donors, those who sponsor our work, and the people who remember us in their wills, enable us to protect the remarkable objects in our care, and to reveal their stories to millions of people every year. In 2018, our supporters helped save incredible treasures for the nation, enabled painstaking conservation work and fascinating research, and helped us to create world-class exhibitions, sharing Scotland’s national collections with the widest possible audience. Thank you.

Downloads

Back to top

We’re reopening our museums

After nearly five months of closure, we have started to welcome visitors back to our museums with a phased reopening.

Find out more