Fundraising drive to complete 10 new galleries at National Museum

Alexander McCall Smith investigates an early chloroform inhaler of the type used by Scots medical pioneer James Young Simpson. Picture: contributed
Alexander McCall Smith investigates an early chloroform inhaler of the type used by Scots medical pioneer James Young Simpson. Picture: contributed
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Best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith is to spearhead a fundraising drive to help pay for the completion of 10 new galleries at Scotland’s most popular visitor attraction.

The National Museum of Scotland has unveiled the author of the 44 Scotland Street books, which are serialised in The Scotsman newspaper, as the figurehead of a “crucial” appeal.

Museums chiefs are believed to be around £500,000 short of the £14.1 million needed to pay for the latest phase of a long-term overhaul of the Victorian attraction.

More than 3500 new decorative art, fashion, design, science and technology will be going on display when the galleries open during the school holidays this summer.

While it is hoped trusts and foundations will make up much of the shortfall, the author has agreed to help rally for private donors to come forward to play their part with around £100,000.

The 67-year-old, creator of the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, has hailed the attraction as “a place which connects Scotland to the world.”

Museums chiefs have issued an “urgent” plea to its friends, members and supporters to support the final stages of the project, which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

Previously closed-off and little-used spaces are being transformed to make way for the new galleries, which staff have been fitting out since last October. Around 40 per cent more floor space has been created for collections which have been largely hidden away from public view before now as well as a host of new exhibits.

McCall Smith said: “I love to write about Edinburgh. It is one of the great cities in the world – rich in history, architecture and culture. And the National Museum of Scotland, situated in the heart of Edinburgh, is a place which connects Scotland to the world and the world to Scotland through stories captured in thousands of remarkable objects.

“It’s a place which has inspired me and, with the help and generosity of the public, can inspire many more people in years to come. This fundraising appeal is the last vital step towards the realisation of a vision which will see 10 new galleries brought to life.”

Highlights of the new galleries include Wedgwood plates designed by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, the Leith-born artist, an early camera by William Henry Fox Talbot, the “father of photography,” a prosthetic limb designed by the firm Touch Bionics, and the Nobel Prize medal awarded to Professor James Black, who discovered beta-blockers and the first anti-ulcer drugs.

Outfits created by fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood, Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes will be on display, along with work created by celebrated Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and long-time Edinburgh painter Anna Phoebe Traquair.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said: “We are now in the final phase of work as we progress towards opening our new galleries on 8 July.”