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National Museum of Scotland Window on the World

Grand Gallery, Collecting Stories and Window on the World

Your journey from Scotland to the world begins in the Grand Gallery, one of Scotland's most beautiful spaces.

With its soaring pillars and high windows, the light-filled atrium of the Grand Gallery is one of Scotland’s most beautiful spaces, and provides a spectacular start to your museum visit. Your journey from Scotland to the world begins here.

The dramatic objects on display – from a huge 12-foot long South Pacific feast bowl to a 19th-century lighthouse lens – provide a vivid introduction to the National Museum of Scotland and the rich and diverse collection housed here.

A visitor looking at the 12 foot long feast bowl in the Grand Gallery

12-foot long South Pacific feast bowl in the Grand Gallery.

Window on the World

Rising up through the four storeys, the Window on the World is the largest single museum installation in the UK. The display celebrates the variety and scope of the Museum, showcasing a spectacular array of over 800 objects drawn from a wide range of cultures and disciplines, from tiny glass sculptures to a girder from the original Tay Bridge, whalebone scrimshaw to Art Nouveau design.

Visitors standing next to a staircase looking up at objects hanging on the opposite wall.

The Window of the World display in the Grand Gallery.

Walk through the Grand Gallery and you’ll find the extraordinary Millennium clock, which comes to life on the hour with whirling figures, stirring music and dancing lights.

A group of visitors looking at a tall clock in a gallery.

The Millennium Clock just off the Grand Gallery.

Collecting Stories

Beyond lies Collecting Stories. This gallery explores the development of the National Collection, looking at how and why we have acquired and collected objects over the past 200 years, and continue to do so today. We still collect objects from the past, but we also represent the present, collecting contemporary objects to help future generations to understand and reflect on the world we live in now.

In addition to existing displays which have been refreshed and reinterpreted, there are brand-new displays in this gallery. Such as a display on antiquarian collectors, featuring the story of Lady John Scott, the first woman scholar to be admitted to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Back to Black, a contemporary artwork by glass artist Christopher Day, was acquired in 2021. This piece is a reflection on black artists working in Britain in the 1980s. You'll also find a collection of scale models depicting Indian production and manufacturing processes, commissioned by Margaret Tytler, a Scot who settled in Bihar, India in 1812. These objects and their story were selected by members of the South Asian community organisation Networking Key Services, who wrote the label for the display.

Visitors looking at a sarcophagus in a glass cabinet

The sarcophagus on display in the Collecting Stories gallery.

Art of Ceramics

Situated next to the Balcony Café, this gallery offers a fascinating insight into the breadth of our outstanding ceramic collections, celebrating the creativity that is reflected in pieces from around the world. As well as celebrating the decorative arts, the gallery explores the use of ceramics in scientific and technological applications, and shows how this material has been a key component in global trade and cultural exchange for millennia.

Ceramic plates and vases in a glass cabinet.

The Art of Ceramics gallery. Photo © Andy Catlin.

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