After our several days of AMIS musical instrument fun, we had desperately wanted to get out to the Highlands for once, but didn’t plan a bus tour in time, plus were worried about weather. And good reason, too. Our idyllic Scotland week was over and the steady, unrelenting rain (how is it that their water is somehow wetter than ours?) kept up from dawn to bedtime. And this was our first full planned “free day.” We had to first lug my 40-pound box of book purchases via taxi to a mail facility to send home. Geeks that we are, our next stop was meant to have been the Elephant House, where J. K. famously penned Harry Potter all those years ago – but after the shock of receiving the book shipping bill, we completely forgot. Instead, we spotted on our map the National Museum a couple blocks away, so we made a beeline there. Jaci had left our good umbrella on yesterday’s Glasgow bus, so bought cheap emergency umbrellas from the dorm’s little convenience store. These were those classic “gag” umbrellas that immediately turned inside-out in the mild wind. The comedy continued as we reached the museum toilets to remove and wring out our socks under the hand dryers.
We now had a good 8-10 hours to absorb the collection – a long day, and we’d been to the museum 15 years ago. So were thrilled to learn that virtually the entire museum – all but the Scotland section – had modernized and re-opened sequentially in 2011 and 2016 and was completely new! The main lobby, a football field wide and 3 stories tall was well-lit and open. We soon realized that we might not actually finish it in a day (we didn’t), so decided to split up to focus first on our specialties.
Entering the new Natural History Hall. The designers were clearly fans of the “Night at the Museum” movies.
3 stories of exhibits around the perimeter of an immense central courtyard. Here are views from the top floor.
From stuffed mice to elephants, every bit of taxidermy was flawless. These days it has to be, or it’s just creepy and depressing. I found the underlying reality palatable thanks to respectful work held to the highest standards; much of it was done in elaborate dynamic poses demonstrating specific behaviors and aspects of life sciences.
Prehistoric life exhibits were a bit scant. The gular armor (throat protection) preserved with this stegosaur was extremely cool.
They have a large collection of non-Western musical instruments, with a hundred on display. Here are just a few more esoteric items that appealed to me.
Meanwhile, Jaci was having a blast and took a ton of pictures, which she shared with me later (of course, we saw and enjoyed many of the same things, which we found out when we bumped into each other throughout the day!). Here are a few:
Looking down into the main costume exhibit.
She thought the 1750s Court Mantua dress was wonderful, but so was the functional period radiator.
I found endless photos of historical garments in her photos folder, some requiring further research…
Beautiful Renaissance (1600-1620) embroidered gloves.
“Triumph of Prudence” tapestry woven in Brussels early 1500s.
Jaci’s seriously into Egyptology, of which they had more than she could get through. I actually never even made it down there.
Not surprisingly, she found more on Tartan weaving in the Early Industrial area.
Ancient Scottish implements for flax production.
Back to my photos, more wonderful things we would both discover:
A Chinese emperor’s ceremonial headdress made from Kingfisher feathers.
There were very inspiring sections on various obscure cultures around the world (above, 19th century Buddhist Cham Dance costume).
I loved the early battle armor from the Micronesian islands. Lightweight woven bamboo – and note the crude but effective shark tooth-lined weapons.
A beautiful Celtic war trumpet – the terrifying carnyx.
Jaci (and I) finally got a little Charles Mackintosh fix with this furniture display…
…and a stunning 3-dimensional piece by his wife Margaret Macdonald.
The museum’s Technology wing included full-sized wings.
Scotland’s first glider, 1896
As I said, we’d seen the Scottish section before, but I simply cannot get over the exquisite 15th century Queen Mary harp.
I photographed it with Canon and iPhone cameras from every conceivable angle
Even its 1904 display case is exquisite.
Beautiful Scottish revolvers from the 1600s.
As I said, we didn’t quite see everything, and we were almost the last two people kicked out at 6 pm. It was still pouring; luckily an employee had recommended the Tower Restaurant above the museum building’s corner.
It was nice and quiet with a view of the Castle.
And great food. I wanted Jaci’s sweet potato coconut chili soup.
It was a great end to a salvaged last day of our Scottish Adventure!
Before I go…
Once again, thanks to our Edinburgh Museum hosts who made the accommodations and events possible (especially Sarah Deters).
Readers have seen many references to the “American Musical Instrument Society” on my blog over the years, and – since I somehow found myself on the Membership Committee – I’ll urge you once again to look into joining the group, at least to come to one of the meetings (they call them meetings, they’re really more like special conventions). I’ve shared with you many of the things I’ve seen and learned and enjoyed – and that’s just within my own area of interest. The next one should be good – it’ll be more guitar-centric than usual, being held this May at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA, near the Martin Guitar factory (which will host us for an evening). I see early electric guitar expert Lynn Wheelwright and Staufer repro-builder Nick Pyall will be doing papers for the first time. And I plan to be part of the panel “Collectors’ roundtable: ‘End Games: Options for Private Collections’.” Please come and help advise on my future!
Next: On to Genoa, Italy!