National Museum Of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is a building which is comprised of the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Museum. It is dedicated to the history, culture and people of Scotland. It has incorporated collections form the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and Scottish items from the Royal Museum. Some of the more interesting pieces which it houses are the sculptures by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, The monymusk Reliquary, 10 of the Lewis Chessmen, A Scottish flag and a Union flag raised by the Hanoverians and Jacobite at the Battle of Culloden, paintings by Margaret Macdonald and sculptures by Andy Goldsworthy that were inspired by the work of Scottish geologist James Hutton.


The building’s architecture was problematic from the concept. Prince Charles resigned as patron of the museum in protest for not having been consulted over its design. It was initially to be an extension to the adjacent Victorian museum but eventually came to be a museum in its own right while both being linked internally. The National Museum of Scotland is made up of geometric,

Corbusian forms, but has many references to Scotland such as brochs and the definitive castellated, defensive architecture. It is made of golden Moray sandstone. This sandstone is called “the oldest exhibit in the building”, a definite reference to Scottish geology. The building, itself, is glorious. In 1999, The National Museum of Scotland was nominated for a Stirling Prize.

The Collections

The wealth of treasures that comprise the National Museum of Scotland represents more then two centuries of collecting and includes everything from Scottish and international archaeology to decorations and applied arts. It contains world cultural information and social history and science. The collections also include the natural world, as well as technology. There are great exhibits on the Assyrian relief. What would it be like to enter the palaces of King Ashurnasirpal II? It contains the Boulton & Watt engine.

This was the first full-sized engine acquired for the collection and is the oldest surviving beam engine in the world today. There are infamous exhibits of calcite crystal in the National Museum of Scotland and incredible information about the Concorde jet. Who could forget the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell? The birth was of huge excitement to the public and the scientific world. Her name was Dolly and she was a sheep. The exhibit on Dolly the Sheep starts from choosing her from the herd and through the actual birth of her cloned baby.

Around the 1830’s a stunning brooch was found in Hunterston, Ayrshire that was made in 700AD. It is now known as the Hunterston brooch. This brooch is cast in silver with sumptuous gold and amber decoration. The brooch is a very special brooch as it is larger and better than any contemporary brooch. This is one of the first instances of the use of gold filigree on a piece of jewelry, The brooch had to have been made by an extremely skilled craftsman who was familiar with the Anglo Saxon, Irish and Scottish delicate techniques of decorative metalwork. It still remains an object of desire. This brooch is a spectacular display at the National Museum of Scotland. The very intricately carved faces of Viking chessmen, found on Lewis in 1831 fascinate visitors and art historians. The Monymusk reliquary shrine is on display at the National Museum of Scotland and is believed to be linked to St Columba, the Saint who brought Christianity to Scotland.

One of the most popular exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland is The Queen Mary harp, or clarsach, was made in the West Highlands in the 15th century and is a beautiful example of medieval West Highland art. The woodwork is exquisitely decorated with animals and scroll work. Legend has it that the harp was a gift to an ancestor of the Robertsons, from Mary Queen of Scots.

Harp music was very important in the Highlands during the Medieval Period. The great lords would each have their own personal harpers. Very few early harps have survived and this harp is important evidence for modern musicians who want to recreate the early music. These early harps were strung with metal strings. This is yet another example of the interesting use of metalwork in medieval time.

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