National Museum breaks two million visitor barrier for the first time

Curator Adrienne Hynes with part of Bonnie Prince Charlie's travelling canteen, one of the star objects in the exhibition.
Curator Adrienne Hynes with part of Bonnie Prince Charlie's travelling canteen, one of the star objects in the exhibition.
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A blockbuster exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites has helped propel visitor numbers at Scotland’s busiest ever visitor attraction through the two million barrier for the first time.

The National Museum of Scotland, which reached the milestone today, played host to more than 300 paintings, costume, documents, weapons, books and other objects owned by the exiled kings for four months this year.

More than 3000 objects went on display at 10 new galleries in the National Museum last summer.

More than 3000 objects went on display at 10 new galleries in the National Museum last summer.

Other major draws this year were the first chance to see highlights from the Galloway Hoard, Britain’s biggest single discovery of Viking treasures, which were recently secured for the nation following a £2 million fundraising campaign.

The museum also staged a hugely-popular exhibition of Egyptian treasures featuring a mummy shroud more than 2000 years old, which was rediscovered in the museum’s collection after 80 years.

Bosses at the Victorian attraction in Edinburgh say visitor numbers are now running at almost three times the level they were before an £80 million overhaul of the attraction began a decade ago.

The attraction has attracted more than 11 million visitors since 2011, when the biggest phase of the project, worth £47 million, to transform the original 1866 building, was unveiled.

The museum has since grown to become the UK’s busiest museum outside London - and now attracts more visitors than the Royal Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and Stonehenge.

Hundreds of thousands of extra visitors have been attracted to the museum since new art, science, fashion, design and technology galleries opened in the summer of 2016.

More than 3000 objects went on display during the 150th anniversary of the attraction, a 40 per cent increase in display space, with three quarters on material on display for the first time in a generation

The National Museum leapfrogged Edinburgh Castle to become Scotland’s last year after attracting 1,810,947 visitors, 16 per cent up on 2015.

However Edinburgh Castle, which attracted 1,778,548 visitors in 2016, has already announced its busiest summer on record this year, with 1,433,896 visitors heading over its drawbridge between April and September.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said: “Welcoming over two million visitors in a calendar year for the first time in our history is a huge achievement.

“Through the efforts of our staff, the creativity of our design teams and the support of many funders, we have been able to create a truly world-class museum.

“Since opening 10 award winning new galleries of art, design, fashion, science and technology last summer, we’ve had terrific feedback from our visitors, whether they are from Scotland or many countries across the world.”

The two millionth visitor to cross the threshold of the museum was 10-year-old Zac Lewis, from Edinburgh, who arrived with his mother Eriko Kono.

Zac said: “It was really exciting to be the two millionth person to visit the museum this year. I come here all the time with my mum and I’ve been coming since I was little. I want to be a scientist when I’m older and I really like the rocks and minerals.”