National treasures set to leave Edinburgh and go on tour around the country

National Museums Scotland director Dr Gordon Rintoul and Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop examine an early medieval silver chain from Torvean, near Inverness.
National Museums Scotland director Dr Gordon Rintoul and Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop examine an early medieval silver chain from Torvean, near Inverness.
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A host of Scotland’s most important historic artefacts and precious treasures are to be sent around the country as part of a new drive to ensure they are seen by far more people in future.

Major new touring exhibitions and loans of high-profile objects are expected to be lined up as part of a new strategy instigated by the Scottish Government.

It wants to significantly open up access to the national collections which are kept in Edinburgh and have largely only been on display in its main museum in the city centre previously, which attracts more than 1.5 million visitors each year.

National Museums Scotland will allow more of the 12 million objects it has to go far “beyond the walls” of its buildings, including artefacts and specimens from the worlds of art, fashion, design, science, technology, the natural world, archaeology and world cultures.

The initiative, which will include “a strategic programme of loans”, is expected to boost the fortunes of museums and galleries around the country by allowing them to enhance their own collections by arranging loans or hosting exhibitions.

NMS’s new national strategy will “prioritise projects which deliver the greatest benefits to people and places across the country” and also ensure greater digital access to its archives, which are stored at a vast collections centre on the Edinburgh Waterfront.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of NMS, said: “We will build upon an already strong track record of sharing the riches of the collections beyond our walls and supporting the sector across Scotland.

“We will collaborate with many organisations and communities, sharing skills and expertise to ensure the impact of our collections and programmes is felt widely.”

Jilly Burns, national partnerships manager at NMS, said the most “obvious and visible” form of partnership in future would see objects from the national collection regularly appearing in other museums.

She added: “This can be individual object loans, whether long-term, such as at the recently opened Lews Castle museum in Stornoway or for shorter, specific exhibitions. Nearly 2500 objects were loaned last year around Scotland.

"The new strategy will ensure that National Museums Scotland cements and develops its role and profile as a truly national museum body, sharing Scotland’s collections through loans and travelling exhibitions, engaging and inspiring people through outreach and engagement and strengthening the skills and expertise of the country’s museum sector.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “NMS can only be truly national if it helps and leads museum activity right across Scotland and this new Strategy will help drive that forward.

"The new touring opportunities which will see the sharing of national treasures at museums across Scotland will help inspire visitors and is a step-change in its role as a national institution.”