Gallery of the Day: Living Lands

November 23, 2011


On the occasion of our recent trip to Edinburgh, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to continue with my remaining gallery guide for the new National Museum of Scotland galleries. I’d already covered all the Natural World galleries, but had only made a start on the World Cultures galleries, starting with Patterns of Life on the ground floor, which has quite a few interactive as it’s expected to be visited by a lot of families. Right next to it is Living Lands:

Landscapes shape us as much as we shape them. They influence what we believe in, what we make and what we own. From the North American arctic to the deserts of Australia, the peoples in this gallery lead contemporary lives, but their traditional values are baed on a deep connection to the land – lands mapped, known and even created by their ancestors. (gallery intro panel)

Just like Patterns of Life, it’s divided into four geographical areas, which represent four very distinct landscapes: the Desert, represented by the Aboriginal culture in Australia; the Coast, represented by the Ainu of northern Japan and the Pacific northwest coast peoples of North America; the Mountains, represented by Tibet, the ‘roof of the world’; and the Arctic, represented by North Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Each of the four areas explores how people live on, in and with the relevant regions and explore similar themes including making use of natural resources, hunting and survival skills, tools and weapons, food and clothing, body decoration and personal items, spiritual beliefs and sacred landscapes, and traditional craft skills such as beading, weaving or carving.

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


  • Thunderbird dancer
  • Nisga’a memorial pole
  • Prayer wheel
  • Beaded moccassins
  • Parka of sea mammal intestine
  • Kangaroo tooth necklace

Things to do

  • Test yourself on how you would use a shield
  • Match northwest coast animal art with images of real animals
  • Make a prayer flag
  • Spin the prayer wheel
  • Touch Arctic materials and find out what they were used for
  • Watch one (or all) of the four films, including the making of the prayer wheel, the relationship of the Tlicho from north-western Canada with their land, the Ainu in northern Japan, and how landscape influences traditions and beliefs in the four different regions.


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


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