Get set to see history in a whole new light with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, the National Museum of Scotland’s latest exhibition.
The National Museum of Scotland is nothing short of an institution. For its 1.8 million visitors a year, it’s a place to see over 20,000 objects, covering an eclectic range of topics from the Solar System and science, to history, fashion and everything in between.
“The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular visitor attraction in the UK outside of London,” says Imogene Deery, Development Manager at National Museums Scotland. “The museum has a real place in people’s hearts. When we speak to our members they often tell us stories of coming to the museum when they were young, and now they are bringing their grandchildren to visit. It’s wonderful to see the museum’s offering transcend the generations.”
In 2011, the first stage of the Royal Museum Project was completed, a £48 million redevelopment which transformed the museum both in terms of the public space and the way in which the collections are displayed, “Although it was a huge undertaking, it was absolutely worth it, as it resulted in the transformation of the Grand Gallery and our Natural Sciences and World Cultures collections,” Imogene says.
“The museum also benefitted from an entirely new space: the Entrance Hall. Prior to the redevelopment, we had a collection of small store rooms. Now, it’s a vibrant visitor space,” says Imogene.
Enhancements to the museum didn’t stop there. In July 2016, a further 10 new galleries were unveiled; four dedicated to art, design and fashion, and six to science and technology, “These new galleries have been incredibly well received and there is more to come. In 2019 we will complete the final phase of the £80 million masterplan to transform the Victorian building with the addition of two new galleries on East Asia and Ancient Egypt,” Imogene says.
While all of this is going on in the background, the museum is thriving, and with the arrival of its latest exhibition, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, sponsored by Baillie Gifford, there is much for visitors to be excited about, “We are delighted to have had the support of Baillie Gifford for a number of exhibitions, including Celts, Ming: The Golden Empire, Catherine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots, which has been the museum’s most successful exhibition since the new special exhibition gallery opened,” says Imogene. “Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites acts like a sequel, as it continues the story of the Stuart dynasty.”
The exhibition has a fantastic collection of textiles, weaponry, costume and artefacts, “There are over 300 objects on display,” says Imogene, “Around two thirds are from our own collection and the remainder comes from 44 lenders across Scotland, the UK and Europe, with items on loan from the Vatican, the Scots college in Rome, La Louvre and the Royal Collection, as well as Scotland’s other main national collections. There are also stunning objects that were found following the Battle of Culloden.”
There are a number of myths surrounding the Jacobite period, which the exhibition hopes to correct, “A lot of what is commonly known or thought about the Jacobites reduces the story to Charlie, the 1745 rising and the Battle of Culloden, but in fact, it’s a far more complex and interesting story, which has significant European dimensions. We imagine a lot of people will leave the exhibition with a whole new perspective on events,” Imogene says.
As well as attracting visitors from all over the world, the National Museum of Scotland has an international reputation, with relationships that span the globe, “We are world-renowned in the field of research, which has allowed us to build relationships with many international museums. Our curatorial and exhibition teams are instrumental in getting loans from other establishments – our Catherine the Great exhibition in 2012 is a great example of that. A number of the pieces came from St Petersburg, and had never left the country until they came to Edinburgh,” says Imogene.
The National Museum of Scotland is largely free to enter, something it can maintain down to the support of its donors, members and stakeholders, which includes Baillie Gifford, “We have an incredible support network, which helps us not only to develop new and exciting exhibitions and activities for all ages, but also to continue our work with local communities and museums across Scotland,” Imogene says.
Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites is off to a great start, both in terms of visitor numbers and feedback, “It’s wonderful to have Baillie Gifford sponsoring this exhibition and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the firm next year, when it supports our summer 2018 exhibition, which we will be announcing soon.”