Gallery of the Day: Window on the World

December 28, 2011



We are getting close to the end of the year, and also to the end of my guides for the new galleries at the National Museum of Scotland. ‘Window on the World’ isn’t really a gallery as such, but one giant exhibit in the Grand Gallery that runs across the height of all floors:

The Museum’s collections offer a window on the world. It is a place where the cultures of Scotland and the world meet, where the arts and science combine and where collections reflect human creativity and invention and the wonder of diversity of the natural world. (intro panel)

Window on the World, for me, acts not so much as a ‘best of’ (because then all the gallery highlight objects would have to be here too^^), but as a ‘bit of everything’, a taster of what kinds of things and collections there are to see at the museum: find something you like, then go find the gallery where you can find some other things like it. You also have a great view of Window on the World from the Balcony Cafe on Level 3, which is on the middle level and directly opposite it, so you’re just at the right distance to see the whole thing.

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


It’s almost impossible to pinpoint just a few highlights, since Window on the World was conceived to highlight the entire museum, but here is a selection of some of the objects that caught my eye on each of the three levels (a taster of the taster, so to speak^^):

  • Level 1: gilt bodhisvatta, sewing machines, gyroplane, American bison skeleton, Celtic cross, fish casts, Charles Rennie Mackintosh lamps, railway signal gantry, teapots
  • Level 3: armour, animal skulls, snuff bottles, model rocket, ceramic tiles, Tay Bridge girder, gramophone, spear heads, sperm whale jaw bone, propeller, zoological models
  • Level 5: specimens in ethanol, probably the largest sarcolite crystal in the world, sponges and corals, quadruplet pacing bicycle, dining silver, African spears, railway station signs, a door from Borneo

Things to do

  • Some of the models on display are working models that can be activated via the touch sensors on the display cases (see image below).
  • You can also find out more about all of the objects on display (which don’t have any labels), via the information station screens. On a schematic representation of the entire display, you can zoom in and select the relevant objects you are interested in. It’s a little bit awkward as the screens are right in front of the display, so you’re almost standing too close as with a display of this size you’d want to be standing back a little (outside the Balcony Cafe on Level 3 would have been the perfect place for them I think) and the sunlight shining through the glass roof is always behind you casting reflections, but it’s still a very useful tool if you want to find out what you’re looking at, especially if you want to go and find similar things of interest in the galleries.

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


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