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National Museum of Scotland Realises 15 year, £80 million Transformation in Spring 2019

Thursday 24 October, 2018

This Spring, National Museums Scotland will reveal the culmination of its 15-year, £80 million transformation of the National Museum of Scotland. The fourth and final phase of the project will see the launch of three new galleries: Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, Exploring East Asia and the Art of Ceramics.

This Spring, National Museums Scotland will reveal the culmination of its 15-year, £80 million transformation of the National Museum of Scotland. The fourth and final phase of the project will see the launch of three new galleries: Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, Exploring East Asia and the Art of Ceramics. The redevelopment has created one of the world’s great museums bringing together the sciences, humanities and culture, inviting visitors to explore the world under one roof.

The new ancient Egypt and East Asia galleries are made possible through the support of The National Lottery with the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as other major trusts, foundations and individual donors. Generous funding from the Sir James Miller Edinburgh Trust has enabled the creation of Art of Ceramics.

The ambitious project was initiated in 2004 by Director, Dr Gordon Rintoul, with the vision to transform the experience for visitors and create a museum for the 21st century, while celebrating its beautiful Victorian architecture. Improved accessibility, new public spaces, engaging galleries and updated displays were needed to do justice to the historic collections as some of the displays had remained unchanged for over 100 years. Over the past 15 years, the project has seen the architecture returned to its former grandeur with the restoration of the Grade A listed 19th-century building.

More than 13,000 objects have already been put on display across 26 galleries, spanning the Natural World, Science and Technology, Fashion and Decorative Arts, and World Cultures, supported by over 250 new interactive displays. Over the course of the transformation, the Museum has become the most visited attraction in the UK outside London and one of the most popular museums in Europe, now welcoming over 2.3 million annual visitors.

The ancient Egypt, East Asia and Ceramics galleries will allow National Museums Scotland to reveal more internationally significant treasures, 40% of which will be on permanent display for the first time in at least a generation. Many of the objects have undergone new research and extensive conservation work in preparation for display to enable each of the galleries to reveal new, powerful and engaging stories.

Exploring East Asia will celebrate the dynamic cultures of China, Japan and Korea, showcasing their diverse traditions, peoples and histories. National Museums Scotland’s East Asia collections are among the most important in the UK and represent over a century and a half of continuous collecting. Exhibits will range from Chinese oracle bones from 1200BC, to newly acquired contemporary objects including a new artwork by Edinburgh based Korean artist Choi Keeryong. The gallery will highlight the range of exquisite art and craftsmanship from the region with objects such as a headdress from 18th-century China, made from kingfisher feathers, five generations of Japanese ceramics from one lineage and a gugunbok, a ceremonial court official’s costume from the 18th and 19th centuries. Because very little historic Korean clothing survives, a replica  has been commissioned from the artist Koo Haeja, who has received official recognition as a Master Seamstress from the South Korean government. The gugunbok will be displayed alongside rare military costume from Japan and China.

The gallery will also reflect important everyday items and explore the often-overlooked historical connections between Scotland and East Asia through material collected by people like Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who played a major role in revolutionising the Japanese engineering education system, and Sir James Stewart Lockhart, colonial administrator of Hong Kong who became a respected expert in Chinese studies.

Art of Ceramics will celebrate the extraordinary versatility of ceramics and their creative use across art and science around the world. With ceramics ranging from the 11th century to the present, the gallery will feature fascinating art and craft objects but also explore lesser known uses of ceramics, including their importance in international trade and in scientific applications such as 19th-century false teeth and heat-protective coatings for rockets. Highlights will showcase the variety of the collections, ranging from highly decorative ancient Greek pottery to an 18th-century dish made for Willem V, Prince of Orange, to an earthenware figure by contemporary Dundee artist Stephen Bird along with the nose cone of a British Aerospace air-to-air missile.

A major National Programme will extend the reach and impact of the new galleries to partner museums across Scotland, sharing collections, knowledge and expertise. The touring exhibition, Discovering Ancient Egypt, will visit three museums across Scotland. It will incorporate locally held collections, enabling local collections stories to be told. New East Asia displays will be developed at partner museums alongside learning and digital resources, loans and a programme of training and skills development for museum and community partners. Specialist training opportunities will also be provided for the museum sector in Scotland. This will include curatorial assessment of relevant collections, display skills, production of learning and digital resources, audience engagement and evaluation techniques.

For further information and images please contact:

Susan Gray, Press Office, on 0131 247 40878 or email

Bruce Blacklaw, Press Office, on 0131 247 4165 or email

Alice Wyllie, Press Office, on 0131 247 4288 or email

Sophie Balfour-Lynn, Sutton PR on 0207 183 3577 or email

Notes to editors

  1. National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation 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.
    Twitter: @NtlMuseumsScot
    Instagram: @NationalMuseumsScotland

  1. The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular attraction in the country outside of London (source: Association of Leading Visitor Attractions). The National Museum of Scotland was awarded ‘Gold’ Level Green Tourism Visitor Attraction status in 2016.

  1. Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.

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