National Museum of Scotland unveils 150th anniversary programme

THE secrets of monkeys, apes and gorillas, the story of how fossils millions of years old were discovered in Scotland, a celebration of Lego, and rarely seen treasures charting the 2,500-year evolution of the Celts will take centre stage at the National Museum of Scotland in 2016 to mark its 150th anniversary.

Picture: NMS

The nation’s most popular visitor attraction has unveiled the line-up for its landmark year, which will also see the opening of 10 new galleries showcasing more than 3,000 science, technology, decorative art, fashion and design exhibits.

More than 50 new taxidermy specimens are being created at the Edinburgh attraction for its primates exhibition, which will also feature displays of skeletons, film footage, models and photography.

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The Monkey Business show, due to open for next Christmas, will explore how different primates move and communicate, the tools they have developed to get hold of food and their “complex social systems,” as well as their relationship with humans.

The Fossil Hunters exhibition, which opens in February, will showcase an “internationally important” collection of fossils dating from between 340-360 million years ago and use the latest scientific research to shed new light on their creation.

A vast recreation of the Victorian-era Royal Museum building will be assembled using Lego in its grand gallery by Edinburgh-based artist Warren Elsmore, who will also be displaying some of the famous models he has made out of the toy bricks.

Visitors to the attraction during the half-term holidays will also be able to help create a model of one of the best-known “iconic” objects in its collection.

The first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity, which will open in March, has been created in partnership with the British Museum. Highlights of The Celts, the exhibits for which are drawn from 16 institutions across the UK and 10 international lenders, include intricately-decorated jewellery, medieval manuscripts, objects of religious devotion and decorative art.

Previously closed-off and little-used parts of the museum are currently being transformed into the new £14.1 million galleries, due to open next summer.

Around 40 per cent more floor space has been created to accommodate collections rarely seen during the museum’s previous 150 years, as well as a host of new star exhibits.

Highlights of the new displays include outfits created by fashion gurus like Vivienne Westwood, Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes, work designed by celebrated Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and long-time Edinburgh painter Anna Phoebe Traquair, a glass sculpture created by Pablo Picasso and Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal.

Their unveiling will be the latest phase of a long-term masterplan, which previously saw the launch of 16 new galleries, a make-over for the grand gallery and the creation of a spectacular new entrance hall in 2011. The £47 million project was credited with helping the NMS become the most popular visitor attraction in the UK outside London.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said: “2016 is a hugely significant year for us. It is especially fitting that dramatic new displays of our collections of science and technology, decorative art, design and fashion will be unveiled during the Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design.”