Our collections are on loan to museums throughout the UK and internationally. Recent international loans include Ancient Egyptian artefacts to New York and oracle bone collections to Taiwan.
Since 2019 we have lent 2,836 objects to 54 organisations in 21 regions across Scotland.
19 July 2019 - 5 January 2020
Celebrating the momentous events of the ‘Space Race’, this exhibition at Royal Museums Greenwich explored the future of space exploration and the 21st century drive for humans to go back to the moon. National Museums Scotland lent a colour poster entitled The Youth of the New China Should Fly, 1978 reflecting the international interest in space.
A Prince on the Run
April 2019 – November 2021
Kildonan Museum’s exhibition A Prince on the Run tells the story of how Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape was aided by Flora MacDonald revealing the ancestral ties between South Uist and Napoleonic France. National Museums Scotland has a lent a number of objects related to Bonnie Prince Charlie including a beautiful silver mounted tortoiseshell snuffbox with a portrait of the Old Chevalier, inscribed "A Gift from Prince Charles Stewart to Miss Flora Macdonald 1746 and an antique glass bottle which has a silver label that reads "Used by Prince Charles, Kingsburgh, 29 June 1746".
Visitor Centre Display
1 February 2017 – 2 March 2018
The displays at Abbotsford featured rarely seen items from the Abbotsford collections including design books and accounts created during the construction of Sir Walter Scott’s beloved home, amongst other objects associated with the life and works of the Scottish writer. National Museums Scotland lent a silver centre-piece made in Edinburgh 1880-81 which is decorated with scenes form ‘The Lady of the Lake’ and a bugle-horn made from a twisted bull’s horn in the sixteenth century which belonged to Auld Wat Scott of Harden.
Abbotsford House website
1 April – 31 October 2017
Whithorn is the location of the earliest Christian site in Scotland and the area is rich in archaeological sites. The Timescape museum is located close to the Priory site and tells the history of the local area. National Museums Scotland lent two rings from the thirteenth century and a crozier head from the late twelfth century, which were all discovered at excavations at Whithorn Priory.
Whithorn Timescape website
12 March 2019 – 21 July 2019
The Oceania exhibition marked 250 years since Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific and included a large and diverse range of art from the region of Oceania, from the historic to the contemporary. National Museums Scotland have lent a ceremonial shield from the Solomon Islands and a wooden figure form Rapa Nui.
Toast to the Prince
30 March 2019 – 30 September 2019
An exhibition representing the Beaker phenomenon across Europe, these displays in Madrid included artefacts excavated from Culduthel Mains in Inverness on loan from National Museums Scotland placing Scottish archeological finds in an international context with collections from across Europe.
The Last of the Hepburns of Smeaton: The End of an Era
June 2018 - December 2019
Featuring rare objects, silverware and paintings this exhibition celebrates centuries of Hepburn family history. A highlight of the exhibition is this silver claret jug presented to Sir Thomas Buchan Hepburn by the East Linton Curling Club in 1861.
Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural
20 October 2016 – 15 January 2017
Showcasing over a hundred spectacular objects from Morocco to China, this is the first major exhibition to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.
A highlight of the exhibition is a unique 16th century miniature painting from the collections of the National Museums Scotland. This painting presents a court astrologer in the middle of a battlefield; it illustrates how the ruling elite interpreted astrological signs to inform their policies and decision making. This painting was made for the second Safavid ruler of Iran, Shah Tahmasp 1524-1576.
The objects and works of art in this exhibition – which date from the 12th to the 20th centuries – have been used as sources of guidance and protection in both the private sphere and in dramatic events such as battles and royal births. Amongst the displays are astrological charts, dream-books, talismanic clothing and jewel-encrusted amulets.
Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery
1 October 2016 to 5 February 2017
This exhibition explores the world of luxury English embroideries made between the 12th to 15th centuries. Often referred to as ‘Opus Anglicanum’ (English work), these embroideries were made by professional craftspeople in the City of London. Rich in their intricacy, they were sought after by kings, queens, popes and cardinals from across Europe.
Central to the exhibition are two panels of exquisite English medieval embroidery from the National Museums Scotland collections. The panels date to the 14th century and are closely related to the contemporary production of embroidery at the court of Westminster. These embroideries are examples of the highest quality of work being produced at that time.
The Offensive Romans
10 September 2016 – 26 November 2016
This exhibition is part of an Heritage Lottery funded project that re-examines the story of the Burnswark Roman Camp. The exhibition asks whether the site was a training camp as traditionally thought or the location of a large battle that took place in 130 AD, as suggested by new evidence.
To assist in this historical re-examination, National Museums Scotland has lent a fragment of an inscribed slab that states the eighth and twenty second legions of the Roman army were stationed at an adjacent fort. The inscribed slab supports the new theory that Roman detachments came to Britain as part of offensive action. This is one of the most exciting re-examinations of Roman Scotland.
31 March 2014 – 30 March 2017
National Museums Scotland has made a long-term loan of a statuette carved from Scottish Oak 1930-33 depicting an officer ensign of the 1st Royal Scots, designed by Charles d’O Pilkington Jackson. This is just one of 83 statuettes that were made.
1 April 2014 – March 2017
A long-term loan of the Canonbie pendant has been made to Annan Museum to embellish their displays on local history. The pendant was recently allocated to National Museums Scotland by Treasure Trove after excavation in the local area. It dates from the 16th century and shows German or Flemish influences illustrating travel, wealth and trade from that time.
30 July 2015 – 31 October 2015
This exhibition celebrated Edinburgh’s contributions to the field of genetic science, from animal breeding research in the early 1900s, to the cutting-edge stem cell techniques employed today.
Dolly the sheep appeared in the exhibition on loan from National Museums Scotland. As the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell, her birth proved that it is possible to take cells from anywhere in the body and make them behave like a newly fertilised egg. The discovery paved the way for the field of regenerative medicine and the use of stem cells to investigate fundamental human and animal biology.
Kongo: Power and Majesty
17 September 2015 – 3 January 2016
This exhibition presented, for the first time, the full range of creative expression produced by Kongo artists from present-day Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola during the 16th through 19th centuries. National Museums Scotland lent a woven cap and cover, significant early examples of their type and part of the early cultural exchange between Europe and Central Africa.
Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom
12 October 2015 – 24 January 2016
The reunification of ancient Egypt achieved by Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II - the first pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom - was followed by a great cultural flowering that lasted nearly four hundred years. During the Middle Kingdom (mid-Dynasty 11–Dynasty 13, around 2030–1650 B.C.) artistic, cultural, religious, and political traditions first conceived and instituted during the Old Kingdom were revived and reimagined.
This was the first comprehensive presentation of Middle Kingdom art and culture, featuring many objects that have never before been shown in the United States. One of the three objects on loan from the National Museums Scotland is a relief fragment which joins to pieces in the Metropolitan Museum. The sections of the magnificent scene will be exhibited together for the first time since antiquity.
The Kingdoms of the Northern Picts
20 January 2015 – 31 May 2015
In Northern Scotland the Pictish kingdoms that emerged after the Roman period were important political players on a European scale. The major legacies of the Picts are spectacular archaeological sites and artistic achievements. This exhibition included recent excavations to help build a clearer picture of these people. National Museums Scotland lent five pieces of Pictish silver to emphasise the wider links the Picts had across Scotland and beyond. These objects are part of National Museums Scotland’s exceptional collections of Scotland’s earliest silver, which are the subject of a major programme of study over the next three years as part of the Glenmorangie Research Project.
Roman Empire: Power and People
24 January –10 May 2015
This exhibition brought together over 160 pieces from the British Museum, to explore the story of one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen. Highlights included sculpture from the villas of the Emperors Tiberius and Hadrian, coins from the famous Hoxne treasure, beautiful jewellery and even near-perfectly preserved children’s clothing from Roman Egypt. The McManus was the touring exhibition’s only Scottish venue and National Museums Scotland lent three items of Roman jewellery, which represented the Roman invasion of the Tayside area.
We also have 18 objects on long-term loan to the McManus galleries. These range from archaeological finds charting the history and development of Dundee from its earliest settlement, to Japanese ceramics representing Dundee’s links with the world at large.
Game of Crowns
10 December 2014 –10 May 2015
William of Orange's invasion in 1688 began a power struggle that culminated in the 1715 Jacobite rising in Scotland. The National Library of Scotland's Games of Crowns exhibition examined the background to this struggle, the signficant players involved, and the outcome for the Jacobites and for Scotland.
National Museums Scotland lent a silver broadsword with an inscription of ‘For God my Country and King James the 8th’ c.1715.
January 2013 – January 2016
National Museums Scotland has made a long-term loan of an Andrew Barclay 0-4-0T no.998/1903 steam locomotive to Beamish. The locomotive, nicknamed Ralph, is stored in a purpose built engine shed and made its public debut at Beamish’s Great North Festival of Transport in April 2013.
Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin
10 April 2014 – 31 January 2015
This exhibition marked the thousandth anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. Clontarf is probably the best-known battle in Irish history, but also one of the least understood. The exhibition challenged the perception that the battle was a great victory for the Christian king of Ireland, Brian Boru, defeating the pagan Vikings and driving them out of Ireland. Viking and Irish weapons, typical of those used in the battle, featured alongside hoards of precious silver objects and religious treasures, including 32 pieces lent by National Museums Scotland from the Skaill Hoard.
10 April – 30 November 2014
National Museums Scotland has lent 23 early Christian artefacts to the Whithorn Trust for their seasonal exhibitions, including part of the Traprain Law hoard and finds from the Whithorn Priory excavations. The exhibitions tell the story of the importance of Whithorn in the early Christian period.
1 April – 7 November 2014
A wooden steering oar from the late 1st century AD, found at the Roman site of Newstead, which is close by to the Trimontium Museum, was lent for Trimontium Museum's 2014 opening season.
1 April – 31 October 2014
A carved Pictish Throne and foot block were commissioned as part of the Glenmorangie Research Project at National Museums Scotland, and both have been lent to Pictavia in Perthshire, an award winning venue, which tells the story of Scotland's Pictish tribes. Organic items rarely survive from the early medieval period and the evidence for these lost objects is often secondary from metal fittings or artistic depictions. The Pictish Throne is one of several recreations commissioned to understand how these objects would have been experienced and the skills used to make them.
Rulers of Hanover to England’s Throne 1714-1837
17 May – 5 October 2014
For 123 years the electorate of Hanover and the Kingdom of Great Britain were connected to each other through their rulers. This exhibition, which was part of five running throughout the region, explored how this was possible, the exchange of culture and science between London and Hanover, the splendour of the two courts, the work of Georg Friedrich Handel in London’s Court and the founding of the University at Gottingen. National Museums Scotland lent a famille rose porcelain punch bowl c.1747, which depicts the portrait of the Duke of Cumberland and the Battle of Culloden. In addition to the punch bowl a backsword with an elaborately chased silver basket that was presented to Prince Charles Edward Stuart was lent.
Mammoths: Ice Age Giants
23 May – 7 September 2014
The skull and tusks of an African elephant were lent to this prestigious exhibition created by The Field Museum, Chicago, following on from its successful run at the National Museum of Scotland.
How Glasgow Flourished 1714-1837
14 April – 17 August 2014
How Glasgow Flourished takes a fresh look at a hugely significant but often overlooked period in Glasgow’s history when Glasgow’s businessmen made their fortunes from trading in colonial goods and through slave labour. National Museums Scotland have lent an architectural model of an eighteenth century Glasgow town house that would have been built for one of city’s wealthy families at that time.
31 July 2013 – 31 July 2014
On 4 July 2013 HM the Queen officially reopened Abbotsford House, the former home of Sir Walter Scott, after a closure of nearly two years for major building works and refurbishment. One of the key objects on display in the house is a loan from the National Museums of Scotland of an advocate’s robe, worn by Sir Walter Scott.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “Abbotsford has huge cultural significance for Scotland so I am delighted to see it restored for visitors to enjoy - you can find a full report here.
A silver pap and a half-hour glass, both used by the great writer, have been added to the first displays in the new visitor centre, which contains interpretation of Scott’s life and achievements, conference and exhibition facilities, and a restaurant and shop.
10 June 2013 – June 2014
The National Glass Centre has undergone a major refurbishment, which has resulted in a new temporary exhibition space. National Museums Scotland lent over 70 pieces of glass from the Dan Klein & Alan J Poole Collection for displays in the new gallery.
26 July 2013 – 31 January 2014
Shetland Museum and Archives hosted an exhibition of part of the Skaill Hoard Treasure, courtesy of their partnership working with National Museums Scotland, and with sponsorship from Shetland Jewellery.
In March 1858 an Orcadian boy was out catching rabbits at Skaill, Sandwick, when he uncovered something down a rabbit hole. The metal rings and other items were reported to the authorities, and it was claimed by the Crown as an antiquity of national importance. David Linklater had discovered one of the finest hoards of Viking silver ever found in Britain.
The hoard comprised fifteen pounds of bullion, consisting of 115 items, mostly jewellery. One of the 21 coins is a dirham, minted in Bagdad (in present-day Iraq) in A.D. 945-946. It indicates the hoard was buried in the later 10th century, in the heyday of Earldom of Orkney that ruled the Northern Isles, and the heady days of pagan power struggles. The Skaill cache was carefully concealed in box set-up of stone slabs, but the rich owner(s) never recovered the booty, and it lay forgotten for 900 years.
Rome’s Forgotten campaign
1 September 2013 – 19 January 2014
The discovery of a Roman-German battlefield in Lower Saxony in 2008 has caused a re-assessment of the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes. This exhibition displayed finds from the battlefield at Harzhorn and, with loans such as the pieces of Roman tent excavated at Newstead from National Museums Scotland collections, puts these findings in context, and explores the new revelations of the Roman-German world in the third century.
On the Trails of the Iroquois
18 October 2013 – 6 January 2014
A carved powder horn bearing the names of Jonathon Webb and James Cameron, which is hung on a Native American woman’s burden strap, plus a musket used at Culloden in 1746, were lent to the above exhibition, which explored the culture of the Iroquois through their own eyes and that of western cultures. Art and artefacts from US, Canadian and European collections were brought together under the direction of Iroquois artists and curators.
Newly opened in 2019, the Gairloch Heritage Museum displays local history including long-term loans from National Museums Scotland related to the surrounding areas. One loan object is this silver dirk engraved with the crest of Lieutenant Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch, and a penannular ring of bronze from Poolewe 800-600 BC.
Gairloch Heritage Museum website
A new display about the local history of Linlithgow opened in 2019 with long-term loans from National Museums Scotland including French wooden bellows and a bone plaque engraved with a musketeer, both originally from Linlithgow Palace.
Linlithgow Story Museum website
The new design gallery at the V&A Dundee includes long-term loans from National Museums Scotland including part of a sixteenth century decorated ceiling panel from Craig Castle and a Peter Change bracelet created in 1987.
V&A Dundee Scottish Design Galleries website
Historic Scotland has undertaken a project to significantly enhance the visitor experience at Iona Abbey and National Museums Scotland has lent eight archaeological finds excavated at the site for their opening in May 2013. Iona Abbey is one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. The abbey was founded by St Columba and his Irish followers in AD 563 and is a celebrated focus for Christian pilgrimage.
A selection of objects relating to the industrial maritime heritage of Scotland is on loan to the Scottish Maritime Museum, which has sites at Irvine and Dumbarton. The items on long-term loan at Irvine relate specifically to shipbuilding, boiler making and dock operations, and include some important examples of machine tools which were once common in shipbuilding and engineering workshops, including a joggling press built by Hugh Smith & Co. in 1916, and a c.1900 Thomas Shanks plate edge planer.
The largest of the loan objects is the original Scotch boiler from PS Waverley, a rare survivor built in 1947 and removed from the vessel in 1981.
There are also a number of items held at the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank in Dumbarton. These are slightly different from a normal loan in that they are part of the fittings of the building, so have never been removed but were taken into the national collections. The items were used in the creation of wax models which were tested in the Tank to predict how full-size hulls would react. The Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank was built in 1883, and was the world’s first commercial test tank.
The Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre re-interprets the story and site of Culloden for a modern audience, using art, artefacts and technology to tell the stories and messages of the Battle of Culloden. Our loaned objects have a direct connection with, or are of the period and type used at Culloden, and help to build a greater understanding of the events of April 16 1746 alongside first hand accounts, archaeological evidence and historical interpretations of the battle.
The Applecross Historical Society displays records and artefacts in a traditional refurbished building to provide a permanent record of the history of Applecross from the Early Settlers to the recent crofting and fishing community. The loan of a small flat ring brooch of bronze, from Applecross, Ross-shire documents the types of jewellery worn by some of the earliest inhabitants of the area.
National Museums Scotland has loaned 125 objects to the Caithness Broch Centre in Auckengill, Northern Scotland. The centre examines the 19th- and early 20th-century communities who first excavated the brochs, those who lived in the brochs over 2,000 years ago and the for the present day communities. Our objects represent finds from the early excavations of the broch site.
Our loan to the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh comprises a range of 28 pieces of Scottish silverware representing the craft of the silversmith in Scotland from the seventeenth century. As the oldest continuously existing business of any kind in the country, the Incorporation celebrated the 550th anniversary of the first ever hallmarking act in Scotland in 2008 and our strong silver collections represent the rich history of this craft.
A selection of archaeological objects from the National Collection is on display at the Tarbat Discovery Centre. Included in the displays are facsimiles of the Ardagh Hoard and the Tara Brooch. The Ardagh Chalice is believed to date from the 8th century and is one of the finest examples of Celtic metalwork ever to be discovered. The Tara Brooch is from the same period. Finds from the Tarbat Monastic site suggest that similar objects may have been in production here during the same period.
The Tarbat Discovery Centre is situated in an old church on the Tarbat peninsula, and is dedicated to displaying and preserving the heritage of the area. The site contains the only Pictish monastic settlement found in Scotland to date.
82 archaeological items are on loan to Kilmartin House Museum, ranging from axes to combs and carved stones to ceramic vessels. These items are from excavations at various sites in the Argyll region, such as Kilmartin Glen, Dunadd and Dun an Fheurain. They range in date from the early Bronze Age, through to Viking times and the Iron Age. This area of Argyll has more than 350 ancient monuments, a number of which are prehistoric.
Kilmartin House Museum is an award winning world-class centre for archaeology and landscape interpretation established to protect, investigate and interpret this internationally important archaeological landscape and the artefacts that have been found here.
National Museums Scotland has collaborated with the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, who run this site, over many years. In addition to a colliery locomotive and a rail crane, our stunning express passenger train locomotive ‘Morayshire’ regularly hauls trains on their preserved line from Bo’ness to Manuel Junction. Built for the LNER in 1928, No 246 ‘Morayshire’ was designed by Edinburgh-born Sir Nigel Gresley.