Where would you find a trundling long-eared hedgehog, an Australian orbicular granodiorite and a vomiting fulmar? The answer lies a few minutes walk from The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, in the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland.
From 17th Century Japanese Noh theatre masks to the beautiful Nubian sandstone Statue of Arensnuphis, The National Museum of Scotland houses treasures from all over the world.
There is a custom-made coffin, shaped like a Mercedes-Benz that was made in Accra, Ghana and a Tibetan prayer wheel house that was made closer to home at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, Europe’s oldest and largest centre for Tibetan Buddhism. The copper prayer wheels within the house were made in Nepal.
Children can experience life in the fast lane with a full size Formula One racing car driving simulator, or can step into a Gemini space suit to discover what it would be like to be an astronaut.
In the Animal World gallery an Ocean Sunfish that is nearly 3.5 metres tall hangs suspended in mid air with an enormous crocodile and a pod of dolphins, while down on Level 1 a pride of lions and a 12 metre-long skeleton of a T-Rex prowl around.
The museum’s interactive displays are superb with entire walls filled with video screens and presentations. A film that played in the Restless Earth gallery showed footage of volcanoes erupting, the Asian Tsunami and Japanese earthquake with a rolling selection of quotes. The most poignant one, I found, was by John Muir – the Scottish born American Naturalist which said simply:
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
On the ground floor the Grand Gallery houses the largest items on display in the museum. A 12-foot long carved wooden feast bowl from Atiu, one of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, stands close to the enormous dioptic Inchkeith lighthouse lens designed in 1889 by David A Stevenson, a descendant of Robert Stevenson.
At the far end of the gallery a bronze statue of the Buddha Amida meditates with his hands resting in the dhyana mudra position, hands in his lap, palms facing upwards and the tips of his thumbs touching the index fingers.
The National Museum of Scotland covers eight floors of a stunning Victorian building. With over 20,000 objects displayed in 36 galleries it is a brilliant place for a day out at any time of the year. It’s a ten-minute walk from the train station in Edinburgh and, incredibly, the admission is free.
For more details please visit www.nms.ac.uk.
by Katherine Wildman © 2011
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