{Scotland} Portrait Detectives

June 26, 2017


Now that we are almost half way through the year, I have been tidying up my photo archives from the past six months, and came across some pics that reminded me of a fantastic ‘kids in museums’ programme I’ve been meaning to tell you about. Or ‘kids in galleries’, to be more accurate. I’ve been a fan of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for a while now – long time readers may remember it featuring in my ‘Top 5 in Edinburgh’ city guide – but when we spent our Easter holidays in Scotland this year, I finally took my kids there too. Well, they’d actually been there once before, for afternoon tea in the cafe but I’m not sure that counts. This time, however, we went in to see the galleries themselves, specifically to take part in ‘Portrait Detectives’.


The idea for this monthly event is very simple. The kids report to the Portrait Detectives desk, where they get handed a deerstalker hat in true Sherlock Holmes style, a bag with a magnifying hat and a pencil case, and a folder marked ‘Top Secret’. TOP SECRET! When you are 6.5 years old, this is already enough to set you off in a state of excitement. Inside the folder, was a sheet of paper with several clues to help us find out who was causing a fuss in the gallery and disturbing everyone else. I say us, because #MuseumBoy needed a little bit of help with reading, though his reading has come on in leaps and bounds since then, so next time we go – he’s very eager to go back! – I’m sure he will be able to read it all on his own.


Anyway, back to the clues. The sheet inside the TOP SECRET folder contained a series of witness statements, descriptions of evidence – which we has to find in the gallery, such as a blue sash or a crown – and prompts for the children to complete, such as answering a question or drawing a picture. This took us round several of the galleries. Once we had solved all the clues, and the mystery, we returned to the desk to receive a stamp and a sticker. We had to hand back the hat – much to #MuseumBoy’s regret – bag, and folder, but we got to keep the completed sheet and the sticker.


Afterwards, there were activity stations set out where the kids could get crafty. At this point, #MuseumBaby – who had been running around with daddy while #MuseumBoy and I solved the mystery – joined in too, and together they made cards with 3D cats out of straws and plasticine. We then followed up our hard earned detective work, with some coffee and cake in the museum cafe, which is one of my favourite places to go for afternoon tea in Edinburgh because they always have gluten free cake options on sale, and not just the pre-packaged ones but freshly baked ones!


All in all, we had a lovely afternoon. #MuseumBoy really loved being a detective, and has already asked when we can go again. He got so in to the whole idea, that we had to pop in to the fancy dress shop in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, to see if they had any deerstalker hats on sale. Luckily, they had one exactly like the one at the Gallery, and he subsequently spent the rest of the holiday wearing it and looking for clues (we are not sure for what) all over town. He’s already said he wants to go back to the Portrait Gallery again, and since they don’t have the same clues each month, it won’t get too repetitive. 


Portrait Detectives is aimed at ages 4-12 and usually takes place on the second Sunday of the month, from 2pm to 4pm, though it’s taking a break during August. It’s free and drop-in, so no need to sign up, just come along. Don’t come too late though or you might run out of time (we took about an hour including the crafts at the end), or even worse, you might miss out on a deerstalker hat!

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8 Responses to “{Scotland} Portrait Detectives”

  1. Kat | Kitty & B Says:

    What a great idea. So much fun and interactivity, I love it! The fact that it’s free is just the added cherry on top!

    Kat x


  2. Emma Says:

    This looks amazing! Such a great way of encouraging children to not only visit but interact with museums. Brilliant idea!


  3. Newcastle Family Life Says:

    This sounds like fun, I think mine are too little but I bet older children have a good time x


  4. Ana De- Jesus Says:

    I bet that they felt like Sherlock Holmes didn’t they? I like the sound of detective work how fun x


  5. Cath - BattleMum Says:

    What a great idea. I’ve never come across anywhere doing anything similar. I absolutely love the picture of him dressed up and ready to search for clues!


  6. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Says:

    This is a lovely idea to keep kids engaged while out and about. I remember being bored by umpteen art galleries and museums but enjoyed having things to discover/activities


  7. Suzy Mccullough Says:

    What a great idea for kids. My boy would love this. He adores things with clues etc. One for our bucket list for sure


  8. fashionandstylepolice Says:

    I like the sound of this. My kids turn 4 in a few months, this would be great for them.


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