A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh

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I have lived in Edinburgh for 15 years, but have only been to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street a handful of times. One of those times had been to work (as a roving minstrel) during one of the incredible ‘Museum Lates’ series! We recently had family visiting and decided that a visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh would be a great addition to their stay. I am a certified museum geek (literally, I have a Masters in Museum Studies), so I was glad we had the time to visit again.

Atrium - A Visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel

Located on Chambers Street, in the south side of Edinburgh (over the North Bridge from Princes Street), the National Museum of Scotland recently underwent a huge refurbishment. Opening again in the summer of 2016, the Grade A listed building has been updated sensitively, but there are also fabulous modern elements that make this space incredibly dynamic and interesting.

NMS Displays - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel


Display styles

Utilising the verticality of the space by way of these incredible full height display bays means that the original architecture isn’t interrupted, but the modern needs of the museum are met. I loved being forced into looking higher and higher – it was reminiscent of medieval and renaissance tapestry displays, where the works are so large (made to decorate castles), that you have to crane your neck (or stand well back) to see the scale. The atrium in the National Museum allows you to see the vertical scale of things – and you are able to get a glimpse of the displays on higher floors – it is tantalisingly satisfying.



NMS T Rex - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel


There be dinosaurs!

One of the family had exclaimed on our way in ‘there had better be dinosaurs’. He wasn’t disappointed. The Natural World area at east end of level 1 is awe-inspiring. Again, using vertical display techniques, the hall is filled with skeletons, taxidermy and many opportunities to interact, touch, guess, and learn. Mr T. Rex is your first dinosaur encounter, but there are many more displayed in the area. The curation is clever, using lifestyle factors to bring dinosaurs and more recent animals together in comparison; instead of the linear and more limited chronological display style. The result is a hall of similarities rather than differences – a factor that is used around the building to bring cultures together. Once again you are invited to look up to dolphins, sharks, whale skeletons, and hippos ‘swimming’ above you. This hall is bound to please both children, and museum geeks alike.

NMS Natural World Gallery - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel


Fashion & Style

Many moons ago, I went to design school in New Zealand – to study fashion and textiles. Granted, I switched my major to photography half way through, but my love of fabric and design remained. So, it was a delight to visit the Fashion and Style gallery on level 1. With subdued lighting (a change from the incredible natural light of the atrium); and using spotlights and uplighting to enhance the gowns, some of the most famous designers and fashion styles are showcased. My interest in fashion was never about the catwalk, but about the cut and fall of fabric – a good designer can make fabric do marvellous things. There are many marvellous gowns and fashion styles in this one gallery alone. C’est trés chic!

NMS Fashion Gallery - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel



We couldn’t leave the National Museum of Scotland without seeing Dolly! The Science and Technology galleries are an inspiring showcase of all the innovation that has happened in Scotland. Dolly the sheep was the first mammal cloned using somatic cell nuclear transfer. She looks just like a normal sheep, but her creation was anything but ‘normal’. Dolly died in 2003 and lives on at the National Museum (in a glass case, a little like Damien Hirst’s ‘Away from he Flock‘ modern art piece from 1994 if I’m honest – My museum geek self giggled a little at this).

Dolly the Sheep - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel

We only had time to do half of level 1 on this visit, and there are many more galleries and touring exhibitions to explore. If you ever find yourself in Scotland, pay a visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh – you won’t be disappointed.

NMS Science and Technology Gallery - A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel


Also, check out my guide to 24 Hours in Edinburgh


All photos & content © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!). Images shot with an iPhone6s.



A visit to the National Museum in Edinburgh - HH Lifestyle Travel

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  • I would love to see your resume -> Masters in Museum Studies, worked as wandering MINSTREL. It seems like the national museum has a little bit of everything: Natural science, air and space, fashion.Does it make me a geek that I knew who Dolly the sheep was?

    • HHLifestyleTravel says:

      HAHA Yes, I am a many (oddly) talented human! Truth is, I get bored easily, so like to learn new stuff! I love the fact you knew who Dolly was!

  • Medha Verma says:

    Looking at your pictures, it seems to me that maybe some movie was shot here! i can totally relate to your family member who said ‘there better be dinosaurs’ because that’s what i also would’ve wanted lol. i am not much of a museum enthusiast to be honest but for DINOSAURS, i would go. i can’t believe you have a masters in museum studies, wow!

  • Natasha Amar says:

    I admit I am not a museum person at all but the national museum seems like it has something for everyone- from dinosaurs to textiles.

  • Ghia Lorenzo says:

    Wow! amazing displays from this museum! Those dinosaurs, hippo, whale, and other hanging displays in this museum will truly leave you amazed. vertical display techniques is really incredible! Thanks for sharing!

  • The fact that you have to look up to see the exhibits makes the museum really amazing. Having a degree in biology, I would be thrilled to see all these dinosaur skeletons and of course dolly, the legendary sheep!

  • Nisha says:

    I have never been a museum person. Having said that during our last holiday in EUrope spread over 4 months, we must have visited a host of museums! So slowly I am getting to like them and I am sure I would love to visit the one in Edinburgh. The section on fashion seems something different. Thanks

  • Wow! you are masters in museum studies. Really Impressive. I am not a museum person still the National Museum in Edinburgh has attarcted me. The modern elements and vertical space are making this space really interesting. It will be amazing to check the fabric section, and dolly there.

  • Holly says:

    That is a really nice museum. I like museums. The architecture is really nice. lol “there better be dinosaurs.” I hear ya on that one. I remember hearing about dolly the sheep. Who knew dolly was there.

  • Indrani says:

    I too am a big fan of museums and try and visit at least one in the city I visit. The National Museum in Edinburgh seems to be an ideal one to give a good idea of the city. My kids would be thoroughly excited to see this. Particularly Dolly!

  • Christopher says:

    Just curious. What’s a roving minstrel? The dinosaur statue and the shark look awesome. I love museums and digging into the past. I just find that I rarely have enough time for them as I tend to favour short trips and stopover Itineraries. Museums require a lot of time to visit all the galleries.

    • HHLifestyleTravel says:

      A roving minstrel is a wandering musician 😉 I walked around playing the ukulele and singing to people for this evening event!

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