Royal Museum

Opening Day at National Museum of Scotland

I like to consider myself as a Heritage Management Consultant and sometimes even a Museum Designer. This morning for work (of course) I visited the Royal Museum which was just opened today by the National Museum of Scotland. The museum has been closed for about 3 years now and has been undergoing a £47 million renovation and reinterpretation. The important thing to say is that my firm Jura Consultants helped them with their redevelopment master-plan and supported them in their HLF bid for funding. Most projects that we’re involved in take quite a bit of time to come to fruition so it’s amazing to be able to see the designs you saw on paper become reality and experience the fruits of your labour.

And what a fantastic experience it is! There were thousands of people lining Chambers Street at 9am waiting for the doors to open. We had an animatronic T Rex, tribal drummers, aerial dancers abseiling from the roof, and fireworks. A great atmosphere indeed. The entrance has now been diverted from the main staircase to two street level entrances that lead into the undercroft. Here is a really spectacular and dramatic space. Once used for storage, the space has been converted into a visitor reception area that includes and information desk, cloak room, gift shop, toilets and a new Brasserie. From the dimly lit space, you then ascend into the light-filled Grand Gallery that seems almost like a birdcage with all the iron work. This is meant to be a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ that entices visitors with an array of different and wondrous objects. Beyond this space is an escalator that takes you up to the very top floor, allowing visitors to work their way down. This is an interesting feature and an important one as previous research found that only 5% of visitors made it beyond the ground floor. The other controversial move was to put the museum café on the first floor. But I think it’s one of those things that if you build it they will come.

It was quite clear that the animal gallery was the most popular. Jammed packed with people, prams and exotic animals. The incorporation of video screens with hanging oceanic creatures is quite something to behold. Other galleries include world cultures, design, nature inspired objects, Egyptians, sculpture, and decorative objects. I think the one thing that stands out is the lighting. It certainly adds to the atmosphere and creates distinctly different experiential areas. The colour scheme works really well too, using jewel tones to delineate thematic areas.

I think though, my favourite thing about today was observing the other patrons around me. One little boy asked why fish die, referring to a display in the animal galleries relating to environmental issues such as pollution, poaching etc. His mother responded with ‘because some people don’t recycle’. Another woman remarked about her disappointment with the Egyptians. ‘Liverpool has a mummy but there’s no mummy here.’ The same goes for the way people begin to use the space. We weren’t in the door 5 minutes and there were already people lined up for the café. There was a pram car park that started in one corner and people were sitting on display plinths and touching objects (hopefully this was the intention). I think what it reflects is that visitors are comfortable in the space, are able to read the space properly and that the museum has been a catalyst for conversation.

A truly great morning! I encourage everyone to make a trip themselves.


Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 1

Tea: Key ingredient to working life

Good morning from a summery Edinburgh, Scotland! ‘Summery’ in Edinburgh often means driving rain though today we’ve got a lot of cloud with some sunshine poking through.

My name is Jeff Sanders and I am the Project Manager for the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF). ScARF aims to provide a review of what we know about Scotland’s past through archaeology and related disciplines, and to consider what promising areas of research we might pursue in the future. We run a series of nine panels of specialists to explore different aspects of Scotland’s past (Palaeolithic & Mesolithic; Neolithic, Bronze Age; Iron Age; Roman Scotland; Medieval; Modern; Marine & Maritime; and Science in Scottish Archaeology).

Each panel produces a report which will be available online early in 2012 and we have a number of other resources that will be available on the website. A lot of my job entails co-ordinating the work of the panels and developing the panel reports, which is a fantastic way of getting to know all the exciting research that is being undertaken across Scotland.

Opening of the refurbished museum!

Today I’m working on three of the reports, but before that, it is something of a celebration at my workplace! I work for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (SoAS), an organisation that is based in the National Museums Scotland (NMS) on Chambers Street (more about the SoAS later). The National Museum is effectively two museums in one, a modern museum and a Victorian building (previously known as the Royal Museum). The Victorian building has been closed for over 3 years to have a massive refit and it opens to the public today.

The street outside was closed for the opening celebration involving a T-Rex, drummers, abseilers, fireworks and a reproduction Carnyx. There were a lot of people there and the atmosphere was incredible. It was good to move among the crowd and see so many really keen to get into the building (work colleagues included!). Inside, the museum is spectacular and I’ll include a few photos in the next posts. Before that, I need to check my email and sort out some of the work in my in-tray.

 

My work desk