10 out of 10
As the National Museum of Scotland opens ten new galleries, we celebrate some of its most fascinating treasures
There’s never been a better time to visit the pride of Auld Reekie – the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh – than this summer. The elegant institution reaches 150 this year and, already world-class, it’ll be yet more splendid when it reopens in July with ten new galleries. These spaces, which feature 3,000 new artefacts, include areas devoted to science and technology, fashion and design, adding up to a glorious display of human invention – everything from tapestries to computers. Described by Edinburgh-based novelist Alexander McCall Smith as expressing Scotland’s “spirit of inquiry”, this engine of the Enlightenment started life as the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art and is justifiably the most visited museum outside London. Here’s our selection of the NMS’s new highlights.
Words Oliver Bennett
DOLLY THE SHEEP
Dolly is no mere stuffed sheep – she’s the world’s first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell. The result of work by Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute, she represents an astonishing leap forward in biosciences. Dolly’s code name was 6LLS when she was born in 1996; she was renamed after the musician Dolly Parton. Her birth was nothing short of a national sensation.
CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH SETTLE
This oak hall settle was designed by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in around 1895 and is an example of the Glasgow Style. It was made in the city by Guthrie & Wells and features modern, linen-stencilled covers based on the original design.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN BOOTS
The late fashion designer Alexander McQueen was proud of his roots on the Isle of Skye, so it’s appropriate that he’s represented in the NMS’s dedicated fashion and style gallery alongside other fashion greats including Jean Muir and Mary Quant. These boots were designed by his creative successor, Sarah Burton, after his death in 2010.
It might look eccentric but this was the first British motorbike – and it started its life in 1895 as a bicycle. Its inventor, Colonel Henry Holden, adapted the pushbike by lengthening its frame and adding a water-cooled four-cylinder petrol engine. It was utterly remarkable for its time.
APPLE 1 COMPUTER
In the 1970s the personal computer was an unattainable fantasy for non-geeks and this Apple 1 from 1976 – one of the first personal computers to be sold – was a brilliant hotchpotch that only the savvy could fathom. Designed by Apple’s technical whizz,Steve Wozniac, it featured a keyboard connected to a TV monitor and was sold by Steve Jobs as a partly assembled kit for $666.66.
EDUARDO PAOLOZZI PLATES
One of a talented line of Scots with Italian heritage, the Edinburgh-born artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi was a pioneer of Pop Art – and a great innovator. As well as completing many public commissions, including mosaics for London’s Tottenham Court Road tube station, Paolozzi made ceramics – such as these six silk-screened porcelain plates called “Variations on a Geometric Theme”, in 1970 in Wedgwood’s Staffordshire factory.
Woven to commemorate the marriage of John Lyon the 2nd Earl of Kinghorne to Lady Margaret Erskine in 1816, the intricate design of this carpet includes a monogram incorporating the lovers’ initials – MECILK.
LOGIE BAIRD’S TELEVISOR
The television was once the “televisor” that’s what the inventor John Logie Baird called his prototype goggle-box, wherein a rotating mechanism miraculously generated an image. Baird, born in 1888 on Scotland’s west coast, was a prodigy: as a boy he made a rudimentary telephone from his bedroom to a friend across the street and an early TV from a tea chest.
It’s a worldwide brand known for tennis shoes and tyres – and it all began with Scottish vet John Boyd Dunlop. In 1888, Dunlop invented this, the world’s first pneumatic bicycle tyre, after experimenting with air-filled tyres to make his son Johnny’s tricycle more comfortable.
HAMILTON ROTHSCHILD TAZZA
This grand goblet, with a gold base and onyx bowl, is the baptismal font of the aristocratic Hamilton family – and was the most highly insured item in their home, Hamilton Palace, during the 19th century. The palace was demolished in 1927 but the tazza remains as a testament to its lost grandeur.