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National Museums Scotland announces 2021 Exhibition Programme

Thursday 26 November, 2020

One of the archaeological finds of the century, spectacular wildlife and the revolutionary impact of the typewriter are among the highlights.

Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland said;

“Having successfully reopened our museums, it’s wonderful now to be able to announce an exciting programme of special exhibitions and displays for the year ahead. The programme reflects the wonderful diversity of our collections and our work with several of the exhibitions covering important themes. The Galloway Hoard embodies one of our core strengths as the global centre for Scottish history and archaeology. It is important also for us as a national museum to engage with the challenges of climate change, a key issue for our times, and we do so directly in two exhibitions next year.
It is, of course, strange to be announcing a programme for 2021 against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic. However, while there are difficult times ahead for us all, recent developments give us cause for optimism that things will be better next year. Assuming that is the case, I hope this programme of exhibitions will give people reason to visit and revisit their National Museum in 2021.”

2 decorative straps with niello and gilding, comparing pre and post conservation

The Galloway Hoard: two decorative straps with niello and gilding, comparing pre and post conservation

The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure (19 February to 9 May 2021) brings together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around the beginning of the 10th century, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects in one discovery. The Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014 and acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and ArtFund as well as a major public fundraising campaign. The exhibition will reveal the detailed conservation work carried out, the exciting research discoveries made so far, and some of the mysteries that scholars will keep working to solve now and for many years to come. The exhibition is supported by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers. Thanks to support from the Scottish Government, it will thereafter tour Scotland, starting next summer at Kirkcudbright Galleries.

A Siberian tiger scent-marking a fir tree
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: the winning entry by Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov

Recognising the world’s best nature photography every year since 1965, Wildlife Photographer of the Year (25 June to 3 October 2021) is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. This exhibition, supported by players of Peoples’ Postcode Lottery, will feature the recently announced winning entry by Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov of a Siberian tiger scent-marking a fir tree as well as nearly 100 other shortlisted entries from 25 countries around the world, shown in a series of spectacular backlit, large scale prints.

Typewriter, Sholes and Glidden, New York, USA, c. 1875
Typewriter, Sholes and Glidden, New York, USA, c. 1875

The Typewriter Revolution (28 May to 26 September 2021) examines the social and technological impact of the typewriter over more than 100 years. The mechanisation of writing in the late 19th century revolutionised the world of communications, transforming office work and opening up new employment opportunities, especially for women. The exhibition will explore the technology behind this iconic machine – from early prototypes through to electronic versions – as well as its role in society, the arts and popular culture. The Typewriter Revolution will showcase National Museums Scotland’s historically significant collection of typewriters, from an 1875 Sholes & Glidden typewriter, which was the first to have a QWERTY keyboard, to the 1970s design icon, the Olivetti Valentine.

Sculptural bowl of unglazed porcelain entitled A Large Pine Tree Pool by by Hitomi Hosono, 2019 web
Sculptural bowl of unglazed porcelain entitled A Large Pine Tree Pool by by Hitomi Hosono, 2019

From striking statement jewellery to glass and porcelain vases, Japanese Contemporary Design (5 March to 15 August 2021) looks at how Japanese contemporary makers combine traditional and innovative subjects and materials, and reflects some of the developments in art, craft, and design in Japan over the past 50 years. Japanese Contemporary Design includes two new recent acquisitions by female ceramic artists which will be on display for the first time.

Florence Gutchen sitting with a ghost net sculpture in the shape of a sea turtle. Photograph by Diann Lui. Courtesy Erub Arts
Florence Gutchen with a 'ghost net' sculpture made from fishing nets left in the ocean. Photograph by Diann Lui. Courtesy of Erub Arts 

Sea Change: Art and Environment in Oceania (29 October 2021 to 17 April 2022) will show contemporary responses to climate change and plastic waste by Indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander artists. The exhibition will highlight the vulnerabilities of Oceanic countries to climate change whilst showcasing the strength and resilience of its communities. It also explores the different ways in which Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islanders reuse and recycle waste materials, such as plastic, found on their land and in their seas. The exhibition will show a range of recent acquisitions and historical collections.

Scotland’s Climate Challenge (24 September 2021 to 27 March 2022) will use National Museums’ collections to show the evidence for rapid, dramatic climate change and its potential consequences. It also presents exciting opportunities for National Museums to collect examples of technological solutions to the emergency which are being pioneered in Scotland, from water, solar and wind power to geothermal and bioenergy. The display will coincide with the UN's climate summit, COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November 2021.

Sporran clasp of brass and steel with four concealed pistols which would fire if the sporran was not opened correctly, probably the model for that worn by Rob Roy in the novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1818
Sporran clasp of brass and steel with four concealed pistols which would fire if the sporran was not opened correctly, probably the model for that worn by Rob Roy in the novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1818

Inspiring Walter Scott (6 August 2021 to 9 January 2022) coincides with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes credited with the invention of the historical novel, Scott himself was an antiquarian and collector. He was an active member of the Society of Antiquaries for Scotland, whose collections went on to form the initial core of the Scottish collections of National Museums Scotland. The display shows how Scott drew upon these real historical objects for inspiration in his writing.

Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! (26 March to 26 June, at Dovecot Studios, co-curated by National Museums Scotland) tells the story of Edinburgh native Archie Brennan (1931-2019) in the first-ever major retrospective of his work. Bringing together over 80 tapestries and works, in a thematic exhibition exploring 60 years of prolific tapestry making, as well as archive material, this is a chance to delve into the world of a master of modern tapestry. A number of the works in the exhibition have never been on public display.

After an unprecedented five months’ closure, the National Museum of Scotland reopened its doors, welcoming visitors back from Wednesday 19 August. In line with Scottish Government guidelines, a range of measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. This includes pre-booked timed entry, face coverings, enhanced cleaning, sneeze screens, hand-sanitising stations and one-way routes.  

The latest information and guidance on how to visit all museums can be found on our website: 

National Museums Scotland has been awarded the UK-wide, industry standard “We’re Good To Go” accreditation.  This means we have been following Government and public health guidelines, have carried our Covid-19 risk assessments and have the appropriate processes in place. 

The full exhibition programme is as follows 

National Museum of Scotland  



Pricing information 

The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure 

19 February to 9 May 2021 

Ticketed, Free 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 

25 June to October 2021 

Ticketed, pricing tbc 

Japanese Contemporary Design 


5 March to 15 August 2021 


The Typewriter Revolution 

28 May to 26 September 2021 


Inspiring Walter Scott 

6 August 2021 to 9 January 2022 


Scotland’s Climate Challenge 

24 September 2021 to 27 March 2022 



Sea Change: Art and Environment in Oceania 

29 October 2021 to 17 April 2022 



Touring Exhibitions 




The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure 

7 August 2021 to 2 May 2022 

Kirkcudbright Galleries 

Discovering Ancient Egypt 

December 2020 to 19 April 2021 

John Gray Centre, Haddington 

Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk 

13 August to 26 November 2021 

The Civic, Barnsley 


26 November 2020 


Further information and images from Susan Gray, email, Bruce Blacklaw or Alice Wyllie 

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

  2. 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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