William Lyons: National Museum Of Scotland To Display Unseen Collections

Roundup: Talking About History

The National Museum of Scotland is preparing to permanently throw open its doors to let the public discover its unseen collection.

Regarded by historians and scholars as one of the finest in the world, the collection is presently housed in a series of warehouses on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It contains more than three million objects and specimens from across the globe which, because of a lack of space, cannot be displayed in the museum.

These range from a Formula One car which belonged to Jackie Stewart, to a collection of more than 2,000 tribal spears, the national camera collection, and a shell collection from Lord Byron's expedition on HMS Blond.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the National Museum of Scotland, says that following a GBP 4.6m two-year upgrade, the public will be able to visit the collection five days a week.

Rintoul said: "Presently only 10,000 items can be displayed in our museums. While there are more than three million items in our storage facilities in Granton, unfortunately people can't visit them at the moment. We want to open up this Aladdin's cave to the public."

In the next few months preliminary work will start on a new GBP 2m state-of -the-art building at Granton which will double up as a visitor centre and research laboratory. The building, which will be completed by 2007, will also house a library and one of the most important conservation facilities in the world.

Rintoul said: "The aim is for the site to become the cultural hub of the whole Granton renaissance project. There is a lot of capital going into the area and in the next five years a whole new raft of shops, offices and retail space will be built. We believe there will need to be a cultural heart to it."

Visitors can see items ranging from a 14th-century bronze Buddha from Sri Lanka, to 1.2 million insects and a book by Quian Long, the 18th-century Emperor of China, on the Imperial Court.

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