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National Museum of Scotland

national museum of scotland sporran picture photograph
Picture Gallery

This museum bills itself as "presenting Scotland to the World and the World to Scotland". In many ways the test of how good this museum will be, is in how well it achieves this aim.

It would be fair to say that in some ways it achieves its aims very well, but in others it struggles. In my opinion, one of the problems is the design of the building itself. The National Museum of Scotland can be a confusing place to visit due to its layout
First of all you can enter it via the doors of the Royal Museum of Scotland, which is a completely different type of museum, or via the doors of the National Museum of Scotland itself. Then on most floors you can inadvertently walk along a corridor and find yourself in the Royal Museum rather than the National Museum and vice versa.

In addition you could also miss an awful lot of exhibits due to the internal layout of the National Museum, which certainly isn't laid out in the style of the guided "you can only walk in this direction" type of museum. The cases and exhibits are numbered and colour coded but again I only realised the significance of this late in my visit.

The present site of the museum was opened in December 1998 moving from its much smaller premises, which were also situated in Edinburgh. The museum is on seven levels, which are arranged, in chronological order. The lower ground level (which I missed) examines Scotland's history from the formation of the landscape itself to the early people who settled in the country. The next two levels show a variety of exhibits in relation to the Kingdom of the Scots and their struggle for independence. This includes such diverse topics as Government, both local and national, war and the instruments of war, arts, crafts and an extensive display on the importance of religion to the population in these early days.

It is probably worth noting at this time that the museum is suitable for most people of all ages. It isn't just glass cased exhibits (although there are many of these) but the museum also provides interactive displays, free guided tours and a discovery centre on level one where you are actively encouraged to feel, try on and use. In addition it is wheelchair friendly and the museum claims that it is fully accessible on all levels.

Levels three, four and five take you from 1707 to the outbreak of World War One. Again many of these exhibits will surprise you, showing the age when Scotland was "the workshop to the world" and contributed to Britain being the world "superpower" of the day.

Level six is where the museum shows Scotland in the Twentieth century. Many icons from this Century are displayed here and for most it will be a "stroll down memory lane". Even the very young will recognise a few of the exhibits. The final part of the museum is the roof garden. Again you should try not to miss this, as on a clear day you will see a view of Edinburgh missed by most tourists. Even on a day that isn't so clear you will still get a magnificent view of the nearby Castle.

All in the museum is a highly recommended attraction. The good new is that entrance is free and you can easily spend a good few hours without feeling bored. There are many attractions nearby and the museum is relatively easy to get to on foot from the city centre.
If you want to find out more then the museum can be contacted at:
Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street
Opening Hours (2001) Mon. to Sat 10AM till 5PM, Sunday 12 till 5PM
Telephone: 0131 247 4422