Sunday, 18 September 2011

National Museum of Scotland

You will have noticed, dear reader (if any of you are still out there?) that regular blogging is not my forte. However, I have eventually returned with another offering.

Last week I took a trip to the National Museum of Scotland, recently reopened in my own fair city after a long refurbishment process. Anyone who visited the museum in the past will no doubt remember the fish pond? Alas, it has been removed. Perhaps all the fish were dying of copper poisoning... who knows.

But the refurbishment is great. I wish I'd had a better camera with me, although I still don't think it could capture the incredible space in the main gallery. It's a huge airy chamber with a glass roof, four floors high, with all of the display galleries branching off it. It's the kind of room I'd love to get married in - it feels like light and air, very uplifting. Like a cathedral but brighter.

So no pictures of that because I really couldn't do it justice, but one of the exhibits everyone's been talking about is the tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and indeed it's very impressive.

It's in the gallery which used to have (if I remember right) the skeleton of some enormous sea creature. But it's been so long since I went before the refurbishment that I don't really know for sure.

That gallery is also four stories high, but it's smaller, and the lighting is lower to preserve the taxidermies and things. And instead of that single massive creature that I only half remember, they now have a whole parade of watery creatures, including the ocean sunfish, with whom I made friends.

I also quite liked the painted stork - but you'll have to forgive the glassy reflections of my snazzy pink camera phone!

In the geology section, looking at how the Earth was formed and rocks from space and things, they had this enormous geode, full of purple crystals, which was formed by cooling lava. The bubble shapes cooled and solidified first, but the heat evaporated whatever solute was present, leaving these beauties to form on the inside of the shell. Incredible.

And the last thing that caught my eye was this slice of iron meteorite with "Widmanst├Ątten patterns" on it. They're formed by the presence of nickel-iron alloys which cool over MILLIONS of years to form these big visible crystals, which you can only see when you slice and polish an iron meteorite. And because it takes so long to form, we can't produce them in a lab and they are proof of the extraterrestrial nature of an object - they're like as old as the Earth's core.

The museum also has lots of exhibits of foreign cultures which didn't interest me nearly so much as the natural history, and also some sculptures, including Greek and Roman ones, up at the top of the main gallery, on the top floor, which I enjoyed because I've studied Classics and I knew what they were about.

The Chambers Street section of museum has displays of British and Scottish historical artefacts which I didn't look at on this trip but which are definitely worth a look.

In fact the whole place is is worth a look - set aside an afternoon, or a whole day if you want to read through everything in the place. There's something for everyone, wherever your museum-based interests might lie, and this is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Love and hugs

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