Outlander, Harry Potter and Robert Burns to feature in new gallery celebrating Scotland’s cultural identity

Fans of Outlander will be able to inspect Gaelic texts related to the history shown in the show. Picture: Starz
Fans of Outlander will be able to inspect Gaelic texts related to the history shown in the show. Picture: Starz
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It will be a snapshot of Scottish culture and identity drawn from more than 24 million items and spanning more than 1,200 years.

A major new exhibition in Edinburgh celebrating Scotland’s heritage will show how Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns, Charles Darwin and Trainspotting have all helped shape the story of Scotland and its relationship with the rest of the world.

We are trying to reach as broad an audience as possible

Ancient Gaelic manuscripts and their links to the hit TV show Outlander, a 16th century romance story inspired by Arthurian legends and an account of a battle of wits between two 17th century poets will all be featured in the new gallery at the National Library of Scotland.

The displays in the Treasures gallery, which are expected to be revealed in July, are expected to be changed every six-eight months in the build-up to the National Library’s centenary in 2025.

Other highlights include the work of one of Scotland’s first recording artists, the Aberdeenshire fiddler and dance master James Scott Skinner, and photographs, letters, diaries and film footage linked to the West Lothian-born Arctic traveller and botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison,

Also on display will be one of the oldest maps of Glasgow, which dates back to the 16th century, a bound volume believed to have been owned by Beatrix, the first prioress of Iona Abbey, and the first colour film to be made in Scotland.

Some of the nation’s most precious documents and artefacts will be on display alongside more contemporary material, such as leaflets and pamphlets from the 1997 devolution campaign which led to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

The National Library said the gallery would reflect its role in safeguarding “Scotland’s memory and be a space for visitors to discover and to celebrate Scotland’s heritage.”

Harry Potter fans will be able to see how JK Rowling’s first story, which was published in 1997, has been translated into more than 75 languages around the world.

Devotees of Outlander will be able to inspect Gaelic manuscripts, dating back to the 15th century, one of which belonged to the Beaton family of physicians, who were originally from Ireland and came to Scotland in around 1300. In Diana Gabaldon’s first Outlander story, after Second World War nurse Claire Randall travels back in time to the 18th century she is taken to the surgery of physician Davie Beaton at Castle Leoch.

Both Irvine Welsh’s best-selling 1993 novel Trainspotting and John Hodge’s script for the film adaptation of 1996, will be on display in the exhibition, which will also feature Bantam, the first collection published by writer Jackie Kay after her appointment as Makar, Scotland’s national poet, a role created in 2004 and first held by Edwin Morgan.

One of Robert Burns’ letters to Agnes Maclehose, the woman who inspired his most famous love song, Ae Fond Kiss, will be on display, while former Edinburgh University medical student Charles Darwin’s book, On The Origins Of Species, widely recognised as the foundation for evolutionary biology, will feature along with a letter to his publisher.

Emma Ulloa, project manager for the new exhibition, said: “The premise behind it is to create a showcase experience of some of the key treasures from across our collections. We are trying to focus on reaching as broad an audience as we possibly can.

“The exhibition isn’t intended to be overpowering, and we are limited with the space that we have, but there is something quite powerful in just providing a snapshot and also something challenging in making this selection when there are millions of items to choose from. We’ve definitely included some of our traditionally iconic material, but we have also tried to challenge how we think of a treasured item and what makes it treasured. Is it because it’s very old or unique, does it represent a key moment in literary history, or is it part of our living memory of something that affects us all today?”