Gallery of the Day: Discoveries

August 3, 2011

Scotland

In no particular order, we continue our tour around the new National Museum of Scotland galleries with the Discoveries gallery on the ground floor (or Level 1). Those who are familiar with the museum before its transformation, will recognise – or find it hard to recognise! – this space as the former special exhibitions gallery. The round arches that had been filled in to create walls for that gallery have now been restored and part of the ceiling has been removed, opening up the space towards the Grand Gallery and the landing on the floor above.

So, what is Discoveries about?

“Discover the legacies of Scots whose ideas, innovations and leadership took them across the world. Inventors, diplomats, military leaders, adventurers or the celebrities of their time – intriguing objects reveal the stories of their lives and achievements in Scotland and around the world. These objects have come into the Museum’s collections in many different ways. Whether they reflect a lifetime of achievement or a moment of conflict, each one gives a glimpse into someone else’s life or another place and time.” (gallery intro panel)

As Discoveries acts as a foyer to three other galleries and the Learning Centre block, as well as the starting point of the escalators, it’s as much a thoroughfare as a gallery space. In that sense, it’s the perfect place to stop in your tracks on your way to somewhere else, browse the ‘Enterprising Scots’ and ‘Innovators’, and discover (no pun intended) something new and unintended. If you’re someone who loves the stories behind the objects, this is also the gallery for you! Furthermore, Discoveries is the new home to the fabulous Millennium Clock (previously housed in the Grand Gallery), which regularly springs into action.

Click on the thumbnails to view the images in full size.

Highlights*

The essence of this gallery is that it basically consists of nothing but highlights. Nevertheless, here are some of my favourite exhibits:

  • The oldest surviving colour television in the world, using a system invented by John Logie Baird in 1937.
  • An enormous lighthouse optic designed by Thomas Stevenson, of the ‘Lighthouse Stevensons’, in the 1860s.
  • A beautiful 9th century BC limestone panel from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II or Assyria.
  • The Ancient Egyptian coffin of Iufenamun alongside a reconstructed model of his face.

I enjoyed a particularly wonderful moment in relation to the Egyptian coffin, when a boy about 5 years old peered inside, eyes wide with amazement, and exclaimed to his mother: “You can look inside! I’ve never seen such real things!”

Things to do:

  • Watch the ca. 4 minute performance of the kinetic Millennium Clock, as it comes to life to the thunderous sounds of a Bach concerto** every hour, on the hour, from 11am to 4pm. You can find out more about the, somewhat grotesque, scenes depicted on the clock on the museum website.

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* Please note that these are my own personal highlights and not necessarily recommended as such by the museum.

** 3rd Movement of Concerto in A minor, Allegro BWV 593, by Johann Sebastian Bach, to be exact.

 

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