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New galleries at the National Museum of Scotland: 14 amazing things you can see

What’s the best way to celebrate a landmark birthday? Well, if you are a museum, opening 10 fabulous new galleries seems like as good a way as any to mark the big 1-5-0. The National Museum of Scotland first opened in its Victorian building on Edinburgh’s Chambers Street in 1866, and since then it has welcomed millions through its doors to see world class collections of fascinating objects.

From 8 July, you can step inside and see more than 3,000 items across the new galleries. Four of the galleries will cover decorative art, fashion and design while the other six will be themed around science and technology. And, with it being Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, it couldn’t be a better time to showcase these new collections.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the incredible objects to look out for:

Dolly the Sheep

Dolly the Sheep © NMS © NMS

Perhaps the most famous sheep in the world, Dolly was born on 5 July 1996 and made history as the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell. An icon of genetics, she can be found in the Explore gallery.

1930s cocktail tray

Cocktail tray Norman Bel Geddes © NMS

Made of chromium plated copper alloy, this design is by Norman Bel Geddes and was probably in production from about 1935.

Court mantua dress

Court mantua dress © NMS

This a spectacular example of a formal court dress dating from 1750 – 1770, as seen in the Fashion and Style gallery.

Grand pianoGrand piano painted by Phoebe Anna Traquair © NMS


Designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in 1909, the piano was decorated by the influential Scottish artist Phoebe Anna Traquair in 1910.

Harris Tweed Suit by Vivienne Westwood

Harris Tweed Vivienne Westwood © NMS


From the designer’s Time Machine collection from autumn/winter 1998 – 1999, it’s made out of one of Scotland’s most luxurious fabric, Harris Tweed, which is only produced in the Outer Hebrides.

Wooden pattens

Wooden pattens © NMS

Protective overshoes, this pair of ornate wooden pattens, with borders and scroll-work inlaid in bone, are from Southern India and date from the mid – late 19th century.

Holden Motorcycle
Holden Motorcycle © NMS


This original Holden Motor Bicycle, built 1895, has undergone careful conservation by experts at the National Museum of Scotland. It was the first motorcycle to be made in Britain and the first in the world to have a four-cylinder petrol engine, with a top speed of around 25 mph.

Model of neural pathways in the brain

Model of neural pathways in the brain © NMS


This beautiful laser-etched model in crystal is of the white matter – neural connections – in the brain and has been printed in two halves.

Meissen lion

Meissen lion © NMS


Made from porcelain, the Meissen lion is part of the animal menagerie commissioned by Augustus II the Strong in the early 18th century.

13th century reliquary casket

Reliquary casket © NMS


This reliquary casket was made in Limoges, France, to house the relics of saints. Both rare and beautiful, it is decorated with the Journey and Adoration of the Magi, or Wise Men.

Mackintosh Willow Tearooms panel

Willow Tearooms © NMS


Designed by the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this sculpted plasterwork panel was commissioned for the Willow Tearooms in Glasgow around 1903.

EMAS: The first bionic arm
EMAS bionic arm © NMS


The world’s first bionic arm, Edinburgh Modular Arm System (EMAS), was created in 1998 and fitted to Campbell Aird at the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital.

Triumph of Prudence tapestry

Triumph of Prudence tapestry © NMS


Woven from silk, wool and linen, it was made in Brussels during the early 16th century and belongs to a Flemish set of tapestries known as The Triumph of the Seven Virtues. It’s one of the largest textile objects in the National Museum of Scotland’s collections.

Travelling service of the Emperor Napoleon’s sister

Travelling service of Princess Pauline Borghese © NMS


Belonging to Princess Pauline Borghese, this special item comprises more 100 silver-gilt items intended for washing and dressing, eating and drinking, and anything else that a lady might need when travelling. An astonishing 250 hours of conservation time was required in preparation for putting it on display!

Mackintosh oak bookcase

Charles Rennie Mackintosh bookcase © NMS

Another of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s stylised works, this white painted oak bookcase was created for Dunglass Castle in 1900. It was commissioned by Charles Macdonald, the brother of Mackintosh’s then future wife, Margaret Macdonald.


Did you know that over 75 percent of the objects on show will be displayed for the first time in at least a generation?!

And as well as an enormous range of items to look at, you’ll find plenty of interactive displays to get your hands on, from touch point screens to working models. There’s even a giant, human-sized hamster wheel where you can attempt to produce enough kinetic energy to power electric lighting!

Learn more about the opening of the National Museum of Scotland’s new galleries, including special events. If visiting the new galleries, share your favourite treasures with us via our social media channels using #BigDiscoveries and #IAD2016!

Find out about other fantastic museums across Scotland, or read about the most fascinating exhibits in Scotland’s museums on the iKnow Scotland community forum.


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