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Global Arts, Cultures and Design department

Our Global Arts, Cultures and Design collections include internationally important material from across the world.

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The Galloway Hoard pectoral cross

The discovery of a well-preserved pectoral cross placed near the top of the Galloway Hoard was the first sign this was an extraordinary assemblage.

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Africa, Americas and Oceania

Our African, Americas and Oceanic collections of over 25,000 objects represent historic and contemporary textiles, musical instruments, pottery, weapons, jewellery, basketry and contemporary art.

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A member of our visitor services team chats with two visitors in the Animal World gallery.
Staff Picks Trail

Be inspired by our staff favourites from our collections on display on Level 1, or try and find them all on your next visit.

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Elements: Earth

Investigate different aspects of life on Earth, through fascinating fossils, tools for turning the soil and pieces of art reflecting the devastating effects of pollution on our planet.

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For Teachers: Ten Minute Activities

Use one of our ten-minute activities with your class today, with suggestions for how you can extend.

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Oracle Bones

Oracle bones are parts of animal bone, used in divination ceremonies in ancient China. National Museums Scotland’s collection of oracle bones dates from the late Shang dynasty (c.1200–1050 BC) and was found at Yinxu site near Anyang city, in central China.

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Our services

We aim to share our collections and our expertise as widely as possible. Our research is shared through exhibitions, publications, national and international loans of our objects, and our learning programme.

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East and Central Asia

The Museum’s East and Central Asian collections, comprised of over 36,000 objects, are of national and international importance. The collection includes ceramics, lacquer, prints and paintings, clothing and textiles, ivory, metalwork, jade, furniture, contemporary art, and coins.

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West, South and Southeast Asia

Our West, South and Southeast Asian collections contain more than 17,000 objects, giving insight into the lives of past and present people across a vast geographical area.

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A selection of illustrated objects in the museum related to Doctor Who.
Doctor Who Gallery Trail

Our very own in-house Whovians have chosen 10 objects from our collections that have links to some of the scientific themes and stories from the iconic television series.

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Stories of South Asia

In 2022, South Asian community groups supported by Networking Key Services (NKS), visited the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to view the galleries and interpret objects from the South Asian and Scottish collections through their eyes. These are their reflections.

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Community and access projects

Our Learning and Engagement Team work to create programmes, tours and resources to engage communities around Scotland with the national collections. Here you'll find more information about recent projects.

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The Waste of Daylight

In 1907 the builder William Willett wrote a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, campaigning for Daylight Saving in the UK. 9 years later, in 1916, this came into effect in UK law and effectively changed how we experience the passing seasons. Read on to find out more about Daylight Saving is and why Willett wanted it implemented...

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Romans in Scotland: major archaeological sites

Archaeological finds from Rome's invasions of Scotland can be found throughout the country, from the Solway Firth to Moray. Three of the most prominent sites are Trimontium, Traprain Law, and the Antonine Wall.

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Collecting the Present

National Museums Scotland is collecting history as it happens. Our new film series, Collecting the Present, explores objects we have collected recently that document cultural, political and social change in Scotland.

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Second World War: Technology

Changing technology played a vital role in the Second World War. Major advances in communications, weaponry and medicine came about as a direct result of the conflict.

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Two visitors walking through a gallery at the National War Museum.
Things to see and do

Discover the story of Scotland at war within the walls of Edinburgh Castle.

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Amethyst geode

This huge amethyst geode formed over 130 million years ago in lava during a period of volcanic activity.

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African dolls

These multi-coloured plastic dolls, western in their appearance, are very popular in Africa today.

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Meissen lion

The Meissen lion is part of the animal menagerie commissioned by Augustus II the Strong in the early 18th century.

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CryoArks: Animal biobanking for research and conservation 

Learn how museums and zoos are helping to conserve endangered species through CryoArks – the UK’s national bank of frozen animal material.

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Natural Sciences department

Our Natural Sciences collections cover both life sciences and earth sciences.

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Highland Style: tartan trends in Georgian Britain

Discover how Highland dress was adapted in the Georgian period into the iconic and fashionable symbol of Scotland we know today.

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History

Discover the story of National Museums Scotland, from our 18th century beginnings to the present day.

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Cloud cabinet

This magnificent maple cabinet was designed by Edward William Godwin and painted by the renowned artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

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Build a story at the museum with Scottish Book Trust

Museums are great places to uncover stories. Build your own story, inspired by our amazing objects.

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Robert Burns on film

Celebrate the life and legacy of Robert Burns in a series of films focussing on key objects associated with the bard.

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Biobanks: storing animal samples for research and conservation

Explore how CryoArks biobanks store samples from animals so that researchers can look at their genetic code.

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Woman and man smiling in a gallery with glass cases out of focus..
Become a Member

Help protect remarkable objects and be the first to hear about the stories they hold.

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Alexander Dalrymple's portrait

Scottish-born Alexander Dalrymple was a significant figure in Britain’s maritime history.

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Moby the whale

Discover how the skull of a 40ft whale, which captured the heart of the nation, has become a permanent feature at the National Museum of Scotland.

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Behind the Scenes Tours

Find out about our collection of aero-engines and propellers on a curator-led tour of our Object Store.

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For Teachers: Secondary Resources

Explore a range of activities suitable for pupils working at Third and Fourth Levels and Senior Phase including the First World War, Parasites and Fashion.

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For Teachers: Primary Resources

Explore a range of activities suitable for pupils working at Early, First and Second Levels including: - Mandarin - Writing a story - Maths and numeracy

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In Conversation: Inspiring Walter Scott

Join our curators to explore the fascinating objects that inspired Sir Walter Scott and the celebrated novels in which they feature.

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Child looks towards the right through a brass telescope.
Curiosity Club

Calling all inquisitive kids aged 7 -11! Our popular Curiosity Clubs are back for more adventure, discovery and fun.

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Relic of an Egyptian bowl.
An Egyptian Luxury in Roman Scotland

Discover how research and collecting at National Museums Scotland is reshaping understandings of Scotland in the past as we take a closer look at a very special Roman object with surprising Egyptian origins.

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Victorian photographic techniques

Discover how Victorian inventors and entrepreneurs succeeded in capturing the very first images.

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Designing for the Climate: Circular Economy

Discover more about the Circular Economy through the work of young people across Scotland, led by Ostrero.

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