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Community projects

Our Learning and Engagement Team work to create programmes, tours and resources to engage communities around Scotland with the national collections. Here you'll find more information about recent projects.
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Scotland 365

Scotland 365 is an exciting project to transform the way we engage young people aged 16-25 with our collections.

Find out more

Below you'll find highlights of some of the key activities that have taken place in recent years.


National Museums Scotland is bringing Brilliant Bugs to parks and museum grounds as part of Summer of Play. Brilliant Bugs offers families opportunities to explore the biodiversity in their area, connect with museum collections, work with an artist and meet The Undiscovered Creature by Georgie Mac, recently seen at Imaginate’s Edinburgh International Children's Festival, who will animate the spaces whilst exploring nature.

The Undiscovered Creature will also be encouraging family visitors to examine the natural world through imaginative play with pop-up performances at the National Museum of Rural Life and the National Museum of Flight on selected dates over summer 2021.  

This event has been funded by Museums Galleries Scotland as part of the Scottish Government's Get into Summer programme, supporting opportunities for children and young people to socialise, play and reconnect this summer.

Brilliant Bugs


Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop prompted a lot of visitors to pick up their instruments again, dust off their collection of LPs and crank up their favourite tracks by Scottish musicians.

For the group of young women who live locally in Edinburgh and met each other for the first time in October 2018, this exhibition took them on a bigger journey.

Find out more about Girls Rip It Up

Photo from Girls Rip It Up © Neil Hanna

A girl with short hair and a red cardigan wears large, over-ear headphones and sits at a partially-visible grand piano with the top open.

From Spring 2018, we will be taking National Museums Scotland science engagement activities out to children and young people across Fife.

We are supporting Fife Young Carers in delivering a science outreach and engagement project, funded by the BBC Children In Need and Wellcome Trust Curiosity fund. 

For more details, contact Jane Miller on (Wed-Fri only) or Clare Meakin on at the National Museum of Scotland, or Nina Collins at Fife Young Carers on

Students in their second year of HND Television at Edinburgh College Milton Road campus were given a brief to create three-minute videos in response to an artefact or display at National Museums Scotland.

See the films

For people living with dementia

In a partnership programme supported by Craft Scotland, we are working with two outstanding Scottish-based craft-makers to run a series of high-quality craft workshops and events at the National Museum of Scotland.

Joanna Kessel delivered four workshops in January and February, making mosaic pieces inspired by the museum collections.

Laura Murray delivered three fun and experimental workshops in March, looking at artefacts in the Museum's collection for inspiration. Participants designed, sketched and experimented with colour, then translated their designs onto metal, learning techniques such as hammering, filling, drilling and forming.

For more information, contact Laura Bennison on for the National Museum of Scotland (tel: 0131 247 4435 Mon, Tues only).

Photo © Neil Hanna


In March 2017, 380 Primary 7 school pupils – many from rural areas of Ayrshire – took part in I AM HERE, a four-week schools outreach project with East Ayrshire Leisure – Cultural Services.

With funding from Creative Scotland and East Ayrshire Leisure, the project included two full-day visits to exhibitions and galleries in East Ayrshire and at the National Museum of Scotland with discussion, treasure hunt, handling sessions and hands-on workshops.

Back in East Ayrshire, the pupils worked with professional jewellery designer-makers to experiment with some of the specialist techniques and materials associated with the objects and jewellery on display at the National Museum of Scotland and in the I AM HERE jewellery exhibition at The Dick Institute, Kilmarnock. Each pupil created unique pieces of wearable art which explore self-expression through design and making.

"This is a fabulous project that has tied in well with our STEM project. This has covered many areas – STEM, language, history of art, design, engineering, technology." – Mrs M Kelly, Mauchline Primary School
"I enjoyed looking at how we've adapted over the years and how we've changed." – Ben Steel, pupil

Image: Looking at contemporary jewellery in the Making and Creating gallery at the National Museum of Scotland for the I Am Here project.

Working with South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture and South Lanarkshire College at Low Parks Museum in Hamilton, National Museums Scotland Community Engagement supported 17 Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing students as they researched the lives of women who lived at the now demolished Hamilton Palace, using the fashion collections of National Museums Scotland and the collections at Low Parks Museum.

The students used historical sources including paintings, letters and objects to learn about five women who had lived in Hamilton Palace; who they were, the challenges they faced and how they chose to represent themselves through their own appearance.

The project culminated in a photo shoot around the mausoleum with models sporting hair, make up and clothing created by the students onsite.

This project has engaged an often 'hard to reach' young adult audience with their local heritage through the national collections and provided valuable and real work experience for students, with a portfolio they can use in their careers.

Image: Dressed up for the photo shoot at the Hamilton Palace mausoleum.


Powering Up was a schools and communities science outreach project funded by the ScottishPower Foundation. Between 2017 and 2020 we worked with primary schools, families and communities in Midlothian, South Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, North Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire to take science engagement to them.

Find out more about Powering Up


Children and families from Newcraighall Primary School (FAST Save the Children project), Stenhouse Primary School (City of Edinburgh Council Family Learning), the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Edinburgh Young Carers Project were inspired by our collections of wallpaper and prints, ceramics, and chairs – everyday features from people’s homes – to design their own personal creations. The project created opportunities for families to work together and use art as a medium for therapy and increased self-confidence. The CAMHS workshops were part of a wider project funded by Gingko Projects to create patterns and prints for the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

Find out more about the HomeWorks project

Image: Designing a plate in a HomeWorks session.

Out and About in Edinburgh was a five-week course, developed by the City Community Learning Team for adult learners from South Bridge Resource Centre, Edinburgh delivered at the National Museum of Scotland.

Find out more about Out and About in Edinburgh

Impact Arts’ Gallery 37 programme uses a variety of artistic and creative approaches to engage young people aged 14-19 who are at risk of disengaging from school. Working with professional artists, young people engage in an intensive programme that lasts 1-4 weeks and culminates in an exciting showcase.

Around fifty young people take part in the Gallery 37 summer programme at the National Museum of Scotland, which has now run for four years. Participants are involved in a range of workshops including visual arts, music, performance, creative writing, costume and animation.

Photo: Artwork created during the Gallery 37 summer programme.

Inspired by the 2016 exhibition Celts, Community Engagement worked in partnership with Polmont Young Offenders Institute and Fife College to run a learning course on Celts and Celtic art.

Find out more about the project on our blog

Photo: Young offender trying on a replica Celtic gold torc in a session with our curators.

This workshop session will be inspired by the themes and collections in our new Fashion and Style gallery. Through discussion, activities and object handling the session will explore identity, body image and what it has meant to 'look good' throughout history. Workshops will be delivered both on-site at the National Museum of Scotland and as an outreach activity, with targeted community groups. This project is already under way, we have been working with a secondary school in Dundee to test out some ideas.

Photo: Student fashion shoot at the National Museum of Scotland.


In 2015 the Community Engagement team at National Museums Scotland worked with schools pupils from Craigie High School, Dundee and game developers Dundee Games Collective (DGC) on Game Jam, a game design project. This project began with a visit to the museum where the pupils and game developers explored the building and learned about the museum’s Art, Design and Fashion and Science and Technology Galleries. This visit was followed by three sessions in the school where the pupils learned the basics of computer game design and came up with some amazing ideas for a new game for the museum. A final session in DGC’s office resulted in two final game concepts which the game developers then whittled down to one game, Dolly and the Atom Smasher.

Play Dolly the Atom Smasher

Learn more about Game Jam on our blog

The National Museum of Scotland has received £16,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to work with young people from the Scottish Sikh community.

Find out more about Panjab Connections

Photo: Filming for the Panjab Connections project.

Our popular Magic Carpet storytelling sessions at the National Museum of Scotland provided inspiration for a pilot Community Engagement project encouraging bilingual families with preschool children to enjoy the Museum.

Find out more about Magic Carpet World

Photo: Participants in the Magic Carpet World project.

In October 2015 we ran a two-day photography workshop for adults, inspired by the exhibition Photography: A Victorian Sensation and in particular, studio portraits and cartes-de-visite.

Find out more about the workshops

Photo: Participants in a Victorian Photography workshop.

Following a visit to the exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire, family learning groups from Westerhailes (Gate 55), Brunstane and Clermiston Primaries were inspired by ceramic collections at the National Museum of Scotland to make their own creative pieces. Led by the artist Barbara Middleton, who encouraged them to focus on the shapes, colours and patterns found on these ceramics, both parents and children decorated their own plates. The families used this as an opportunity to find new and creative ways to engage and learn with their children. The project is part of the work the City of Edinburgh Council’s Community Learning and Development team undertake with families across the city.

On 13 February 2015, the families who took part in this workshop enjoyed a pop-up display of their own creations at the National Museum of Scotland. Everyone, especially the children, were incredibly proud to see their own plates exhibited for all to see at the Museum. In a separate room, the children had the chance to take part in an additional creative activity with the artist, Barbara Middleton, while their parents and grandparents enjoyed refreshments and visited the display. It was an enjoyable day that allowed the families to relax and admire what their hard work accomplished.

Photo: 'Ming' plates created in a family workshop.

Formed in summer 2015, our group of Young Demonstrators meet regularly to plan activities and events for other young people in the museum. So far they have created their own tours, given visitors the chance to dress up in our photo booth, run object handling for the public and even worked with an artist to create a comic strip about Dolly the sheep. They are now hard at work, with other young people, helping to shape our new Scotland 365 youth project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Kick the Dust programme.

Find out more about Young Demonstrators

Image: The Young Demonstrators worked with artist Henry Cruickshank to create a comic strip starring our very own super sheep, Dolly.


This two-year project worked with four partner museums across Scotland and gave young people the opportunity to work with museums, curators and other creative partners across Scotland.

Find out more about Scotland Creates


Image: Volunteers at the launch of the Scotland Creates: Sense of Place exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

In 2014, the Learning Team at the National Museums Scotland started working with the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids Edinburgh. The project began with skills swap sessions between museum learning assistants and play specialists at the hospital. The next step was to bring the museum experience into the hospital. The theme of mammoths was chosen to tie in with the museum’s special exhibition Mammoths of the Ice Age.  A colourful corridor display on mammoths was created in a busy section of the hospital.

Both the writer and the artist in residence at the hospital offered drop-in activity sessions in the hospital public areas, including mammoth mask making and cave art. A learning resource was then created for the play specialists to use with children in the hospital. It included objects to handle, books, craft activities and toys. The real mammoth’s tooth has been a source of fascination for the children and has been used to teach about dental hygiene.

In spring 2014 the Community Engagement team worked with a family learning group who meet at Stanwell Nursery in Leith to produce a booklet about the museum. The booklet shows us just how our under five visitors see the museum when they come to visit.  It’s also full of hints and tips for other families on how to get the most out of visiting the museum. We started by introducing the parents and their children, all aged 3-5 to our magic carpet outreach resource, which is available for loan to nurseries and communities across Edinburgh.

Through exploring the magic carpet the group began to handle objects, tell stories and make crafts. They then planned a visit to the museum together. During their visits, parents and children drew their favourite objects, talked about why they liked them and also shared their tips on how to have the best experience at the museum. These conversations and a selection of their artwork have been shared in their booklet to provide a ‘way-in’ for other families visiting the museum with little ones.


Image: Children get their hands on replica objects in a Magic Carpet session.

Venture Trust, the National Museums of Scotland and young carers groups in Glasgow joined forces to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland's silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances, since the 1700s.

The group's research into the Lowland Clearances began with a visit to the National Museum of Rural Life, followed by a three-day camping adventure through the Galloway Forest Park. The group then created a small exhibition documenting their experiences.

Find out more about their journey on our blog


Image: Bracing weather on a camping trip in Galloway.

On 31 October 2014, Dr Chris Lee presented Margaret’s Wardrobe at the National Museum of Scotland, as part of Luminate: Scotland’s Festival of Creative Ageing. This illustrated talk showed how personal collections can help preserve self-identity, and how our museum collections continue to stimulate memories and discussion.

Find out more about Margaret's Wardrobe

Lung Ha’s Theatre Company aims to be a leading theatre company for people with learning disabilities, in Scotland and internationally. In 2014 we collaborated with Lung Ha’s on an innovative project which tackled the meaning and significance of collecting objects.

The Hold was written for National Museums Scotland and Lung Ha’s Theatre Company by Adrian Osmond, who has worked with Scottish Opera and the Royal Court Theatre, and whose writing has been produced around the world.  The promenade performance, performed by 13 cast members, led captivated audiences on a journey of exploration through the National Museum of Scotland’s Kingdom of the Scots and Early People galleries.

Prior to the performances, Lung Ha’s ran two workshops for participants with learning difficulties, to help them engage with the performances in the museum. This film goes behind the scenes as the company rehearse and perform the play, and reflects the audience's reactions.

With funding from the Scottish Government’s Autism Award, we held an after hours Game Masters event for around 50 young people with autism and their family and supporters. The short film below sums up the impact the after-hours event had on everyone who took part. The funding enabled National Museums Scotland to deliver autism awareness training to Learning and Programmes staff. This is just part of our growing provision of opportunities for people who need a little extra support to enjoy our museums.

See our events and resources for autistic children and young people

In 2013, National Museums Scotland took to the road to bring science to the music festival circuit. In partnership with Edinburgh International Science Festival and supported by a Scottish Government Talking Science grant, the Rock the Lab science roadshow brought free and interactive science experiments to new audiences across the country.

At festivals and community centres across Scotland, members of the public were able to flag down our roving scientists and their busking bike to see astounding experiments, or drop into a pop-up laboratory where Rock the Lab demonstrated the fun side of scientific research and innovation, with experiments inspired by the collections at the National Museum of Scotland.


Image: Science on the move with Rock the Lab.

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