Dinosaurs, drummers and abseiling gargoyles

A few of you may have noticed from my About page that I work at the National Museum of Scotland. It’s been rather busy at work recently as the older part of the museum has been closed for 2 ½ years for major refurbishment, and re-opened to the public on Friday 29th July. It’s been a very exciting few days, and I thought I’d share my photos from the opening day with you.

Friday morning started with the main street outside the museum closed to vehicles, and I saw many enthusiastic families heading to the museum for the Opening Ceremony. By 9.15 there was a large crowd of people waiting for the festivities to begin.

In the crowd

It was a bit tricky for a lot of us to see, but there were squeals of excitement when a dinosaur came to say hello:


Actually, I couldn’t quite catch what he said, it was something like, “RRROOHHAAAARRRRR!!!!”

The dinosaur represented our new acquisition to the museum of a life-size T-Rex skeleton cast.

This was followed by an impressive and dynamic performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers.

Taiko Drummers1

The strange eighties denim outfits and headbands were amusing, but they knew their stuff.

Taiko Drummers2

It was getting towards 10.00 when the doors to the museum would open, and the crowd was getting restless. Grant Stott from Forth1 Radio, dressed as a Victorian gent rallied the crowd, asking if we had missed our museum, and there were loud cries of “Yes!!” around me.

Grant Stott

A young girl won a competition in the local newspaper to open the museum.

Comp winner

She told about getting stuck between two statues in the museum when she was younger, and had to be rescued; and she took her first steps as a toddler in the Grand Gallery. She knocked on the door of the museum, and a strange procession of musicians came out, one playing a fanfare on a reproduction of a Carnyx, a 2,000 year old Scottish war horn.


I have never heard this instrument before, and I’m not keen to hear it again, a strange wailing honking noise.

Our attention was drawn to two figures who appeared on the parapet of the museum dressed like gargoyles or statues, and who pranced about precariously:


And finally, they hung over the edge, and (gasps from the crowd) took their first steps down the front of the building. Amazingly, they negotiated the thin pillars between the windows, and didn’t put a foot through the windows.


When they reached the ground, their white banner parted to either side of the new street level entrances. The museum was declared open, and exploding chinese firecrackers and sparkling golden fireworks exploded from the roof, to Oooohs and Aaahs from the crowd. And finally they let us in:

We go in

I went in with the crowd too, and it was lovely to feel their palpable excitement about all the new objects and spaces in the museum, and seeing inside an old favorite place again.

These were the first people in the Grand Gallery: admiring the interior, planning where to head first, and taking photos:

1st visitors

It is a fabulous Victorian building, especially the beautiful birdcage like Grand Gallery, which has been spruced up a treat:

Grand Gallery

There were still people pouring in from the new ground level entrance hall:

Visitors pouring in

We had 20,000 visitors on the first day, and yet it was still possible to get away from crowds, which just show what a large complex it now is.

Some of the internal spaces have been radically changed, and previously bricked up Victorian arches opened up. This is the area of greatest architectural change:

Millenium Clock

The ground level here was where we held special exhibitions, and the area behind was a large staircase where I used to work: where the library was located. The block at the back is now the new Learning Centre, a fantastic facility for visiting schools and other learners. I think the Millennium Clock sits rather nicely here, and there are plenty of good viewing places for when it chimes. The Research Library is now on Level 3 (old 1st floor), at the back of the Communicate gallery, and we also have a new space, the Info Zone, on the same floor, next to the café, where I can occasionally be found imparting information about the Museum and its collections.

I was very keen to see one of the Sounds Global events on the day. The musician Victor Gama designed some musical instruments inspired by our collection of instruments from around the world and he was playing them at intervals during the day. This is him playing the Tonal Matrix:

Tonal Matrix - Victor Gama

This one has a kind of plucked plinky sound a bit like a child’s toy piano. All his instruments can be played by several people at the same time, and are available for our visitors to play, in the Performance and Lives gallery.

Here is the Vulk:

Vulk - Victor Gama

He also explained how he had developed the ideas for the instruments. This one is the Tipaw, named because it looks like two tiger paw prints.

Tipaw - Victor Gama

It was a fascinating and exciting day. And a glutton for punishment, I returned to the museum the next day, on my day off, to enjoy a leisurely walk around the 16 new galleries and many other refurbished displays.

If you find yourself in Edinburgh do go and visit. It’s an amazing eclectic museum, something for all interests and all ages.

More information on the website www.nms.ac.uk

Lots more photos of the opening and the new museum on their Flickr group and Facebook pages.

BBC report of the opening.

Museum film of the event.

Views and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and are not necessarily the views of National Museums Scotland.


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