We just can't wait to make an exhibition of ourselves

IT IS a place where they shared some of their most important childhood memories - albeit 90 years apart.

• Eleven-year-old Bryony Hare

Now a young girl who first learned to walk at the National Museum of Scotland, and a war veteran who first visited the attraction when he was just four years old are set to be guests of honour at the grand reopening tomorrow.

Bryony Hare, 11, is set to play a starring role at the opening after winning an Evening News competition to be a VIP guest of the museum for the big day. As a baby, the Tollcross Primary School pupil took her first steps at the attraction.

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She will be joined by Harry Hawthorne, 93, and together the pair have enjoyed a special preview tour of the attraction's 46 million revamp, as the finishing touches were being made.

• Are you looking forward to seeing the revamped museum's new displays? Vote here

As she prepared for her first look at the new layout, Bryony, admitted: "I'm really excited and a little nervous because I've no idea what it will be like."

After seeing the grand entrance created under the main hall for the first time, she declared it "amazing".

The youngster, who lives just around the corner from the museum on Forrest Road, was left stunned at some of the new displays, such as the cast of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, a giant digital globe and her favourite new exhibit, the Schmidt telescope.

"The museum means so much to me because I learned to walk here and I've been coming her so often since I was a baby," she said.

Of course, not everything met with the youngster's approval and there was one very important part of her museum memory that was missing.

"I miss the fish," she admitted. "I was a bit sad when I heard they weren't going to be bringing them back, and I think lots of people will miss them."

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Bryony was joined on her tour by another special visitor - someone who has spent even more time inside the building's grand hall. Mr Hawthorne will be given a special place as guest of honour for the opening ceremony, as he will be celebrating his 94th birthday - and 90 years of visiting the museum.

Mr Hawthorne, a former civil servant and a sergeant in the army who spent five months in a German POW camp at the end of World War II, first visited the museum when he was just four years old, when his older brothers brought him from the family's home in Newington.

"I can remember I was really excited, much like I am now about the new museum," he said. "I had been told that you could go in and push buttons and make things move, which I just thought was extraordinary. And then, of course, there were all the animals I had never seen and couldn't imagine." Mr Hawthorne, who now lives in Morningside, has since taken two generations of his own family to the museum, and is looking forward to taking his great-grandchildren to see the new displays.

And he admitted that, after 90 years of getting to know the layout of the museum, it would take a few more visits before he knew his way around again.

Around 80 per cent of objects in the 36 galleries in the revamped venue - 16 of them brand new - have never been on show before.

Gordon Rintoul - Page 14