Gallery of the Day: Restless Earth

August 17, 2011


We continue with our tour around the Natural World galleries at the National Museum of Scotland with ‘Restless Earth’, which is on the first floor/ level 3. Unlike the animal block, this isn’t an atrium gallery so there’s more floor space. At first glance it may seem like just another gallery with just another collection of rocks, but the contextual information and images really draw you in, and there’s even some breathtaking film footage showing the ‘restless Earth’ in action.

“The Earth is a restless planet. It is continually shifting under our feet. Powerful events deep below the Earth’s crust create volcanoes and earthquakes, throw up mountains and pull continents apart. Extraordinary rocks and minerals are clues as to how  these huge forces have shaped and changed our planet over billions of years.” (gallery intro panel)

There’s a look at the anatomy of the Earth, from its crust to its core, while ‘Earth in motion’ focuses on plate tectonics and earthquakes, and ‘Earth’s fiery power’ covers, you’ve guessed it, volcanoes. ‘Eroding Earth’ looks at the damage that wind, water and ice can do, though also showcases some beautiful ‘erosion sculptures’. If you’re still not convinced that it’s more than just another rocks gallery, then ‘Every rock tells a story’ might get you a bit more excited about the subject matter as it shows how rocks are the key to the Earth’s secret. Or, perhaps the section featuring local Scottish rock specimens – e.g. Basalt from Fife, Agate from Roxburghshire, or Limestone from Pitlochry, not to forget the tastily sounding Haggis rock from Leadburn – might make it all a bit more personal. Having studied a course on volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis through the Open University, I was particularly interested in this gallery and I was not disappointed.


  • The giant amethyst geode.
  • The mesosaur fossil.
  • The puffersphere, which illustrates how the Earth has formed and changed.

Things to do

  • Compare the Earth today with 280 million years ago in the Pangea puzzle.
  • Spot the clues in the rocks quiz and see if you can figure out how they were formed.
  • Have a feel of some giant rocks and minerals, including the very cool (thankfully) Ropey Lava.
  • Check out current earthquake and volcano activity around the world on the interactive touch screen – you can choose from UK events, global events and future threats.
  • Watch “Earth Events” with amazing film footage of natural phenomena such as bubbling mud pools, steaming fumeroles and spouting geysers (sounds like our holiday in Iceland!), and see the dramatic forces of nature at work in avalanches, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


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


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