Scotland and China in joint city artefact exhibit

Scotland and China are to join forces to stage a blockbuster exhibition charting the changing face of two of its flagship world heritage sites over hundreds of years.

The Porteous Mob by James Drummond, which will feature among the exhibits. Picture: National Galleries of Scotland

• Ancient artefacts from Nanjing, China and Edinburgh to feature in joint exhibit of two cities

• Collaboration between Nanjing Museum and the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland will open in China before heading to capital next year

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• Aerial photography, architectural drawings, maps, prints, engravings, paintings, costumes and museum artefacts from both cities to feature in exhibit

A digitally altered image of Ninjang and Edinburgh merged together

Nanjing and Edinburgh will both play host to “A Tale of Two Cities”, which will draw together rarely-seen material from the centuries-old archives held on the two cities.

Aerial photography, architectural drawings, maps, prints, engravings, paintings, costumes and museum artefacts will be pulled together for the exhibition, which will open in China later this year before heading to Scotland’s capital in 2014.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, one of the Scottish Government’s main cultural agencies, is collaborating on the project with Nanjing Museum, which will be staging A Tale of Two Cities inside its new exhibition galleries between 5 November and 5 May next year.

RCAHMS is one of the first overseas bodies to work with a Chinese museum or gallery on a major exhibition.

More than 400,000 artefacts are held at Nanjing Museum’s archives, one of the first state attractions to be set up in the country. RCAHMS holds over 5 million drawings, photographs, negatives and manuscripts relating to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings and maritime heritage.

The displays in the new exhibition will focus on the early formation of the two cities, their architectural and urban evolution, and gradual expansion right up to the modern-day era.

It will also look at the “challenges” the two cities face over the development and preservation of architectural and cultural landmarks.

Much of the material which will be going on display will not have been seen outside the respective countries before.

The exhibition is also one of the first major joint ventures to be confirmed since First Minister Alex Salmond signed a “memorandum of understanding” for Scotland and China to work together on cultural projects, back in December 2011.

The project was confirmed today in Beijing by the Scottish Government during an official visit by external affairs minister Humza Yousaf.

He said: “Scotland and China both share a strong appreciation for cultural heritage, and this exhibition will enable people in both countries to find out more about our respective cultures and history.”

Although a host venue for the exhibition has not been confirmed in Edinburgh, it is thought the Scottish National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland are both in contention.

Officials at RCAHMS say visitors will be able to explore the two cities through both historical maps and aerial photographs, as well as state-of-the-art touch table technology.

The exhibition is being created by an Edinburgh-based design firm, Nomad Exhibitions, which says it will take visitors on “a journey through the intriguing architectural and urban history of these world heritage sites, both of whom have developed similarly as urban centres in the 14th/15th and the 17th/18th centuries, during two key periods of dramatic growth.”

Rebecca Bailey, head of education at RCAHMS and co-curator of the exhibition, said: “A Tale of Two Cities has presented us with an incredible opportunity to share skills and knowledge in exhibition curation and interpretation with our counterparts in China.

“By bringing a wonderful range of archive materials together, we have been able to work creatively with Nanjing Museum to explore ideas of urban development and national identity in both Scotland and China.

“It is a privilege to be one of the first organisations in the world to collaborate in such detail with a Chinese museum, and we hope that this joint project can become a model for cultural engagement between our two countries in the future.”

Mr Yousaf is on a four-day visit to China and Hong Kong for a series of diplomatic, cultural, business and trade engagements.