Thursday, 18 April 2016

National Museum of Scotland Celebrates 150 Years

The National Museum of Scotland today marks its 150th anniversary, installing a significant item first enjoyed by visitors 150 years ago. The 16th century Italian dish was among the original objects that wowed Victorian visitors when the Museum first opened in 1866. It also laid the foundations for the Museum’s now celebrated collection of Italian Majolica.

The dish is among a number of items held by the Museum in 1866 that will go on display in ten new galleries which open in July to celebrate the Museum’s anniversary. These include a working model of a condensing beam engine, which is currently being conserved at the National Museums Collection Centre. When originally displayed, the Victorian model was not in working condition, but painstaking restoration by National Museums’ expert staff means that when it goes on display this July visitors will be able to see it in action.

The Museum was first opened to the public on 19 May 1866 by Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, and then known as the ‘Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art’. In an era which saw the founding of a number of the UK’s finest museums, the institution was committed to collecting and interpreting objects of both Scottish and global significance. After 150 years of development, innovation and expansion, the National Museum of Scotland today offers ‘the world under one roof’ to more than 1.5 million visitors every year, and remains a place where outstanding items from both arts and sciences come together.

In the latest phase of its historic evolution, ten new galleries will open at the Museum on 8 July, following a £14.1million redevelopment and restoration of its Grade A listed building. With just 50 days to go until the opening, more than 3,000 objects are currently being installed.

Celebrating the Museum’s founding principles, the new galleries will explore the excitement of scientific discovery and invention alongside the creativity of applied arts, fashion and design. National Museums Scotland will present here the UK’s most comprehensive suite of science and technology galleries outside London, and open the largest dedicated fashion and style gallery in Scotland. Following extensive conservation and research, 75% of the items shown in the new galleries will be displayed for the first time in at least a generation. Exhibition space for these collections will increase by 40%.

To mark the Museum’s 150th year a new piazza will also be created in front of the Museum, providing a fitting setting for the listed building in this Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design, and creating a new public space in the capital for relaxation and outdoor performances.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director, National Museums Scotland, said:

“For the past 150 years National Museums Scotland has brought world-class science and art collections to our visitors. We continue to honour our founders’ vision with new and innovative displays to engage and inspire many thousands of visitors. Celebrations of this significant anniversary peak in July when we open ten dramatic new galleries, which showcase some of the finest items in our collections.”

Further information and images from Sutton PR:
Louise Collins on 020 7183 3577 or email

Or contact Alice Wyllie, Press Office, National Museums Scotland on 0131 247 4288 or email

Notes to Editors

  1. National Museums Scotland looks after museum collections of national and international importance and provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.
  2. The National Museum of Scotland reopened in summer 2011 following a three-year, £50m redevelopment. With over 8 million visitors since reopening, the National Museum of Scotland is the most popular museum in the country outside of London according to ALVA figures.
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