I was delighted to attend the Opening Reception last night at the National Museums of Scotland to celebrate the completion of the 15 year transformation of the main National Museum building on Chambers Street in Edinburgh. As the final three galleries to be represented included the East Asia gallery, we were treated to a performance of Japanese drumming, which echoed amazingly through the main atrium of the Museum.
Speeches were kicked off by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, who re-emphasised the point the culture is at the heart of flourishing societies, and were a vital part of public life (and policy). She has consistently stuck to this script, and as a longstanding political overseer of the culture and heritage portfolio in Scotland, it remains heartening to hear her continue to win the argument for culture within Government realms. Were that always the case south of the border, and oh to have a culture minister in England that lasted more than a couple of years!
We were then given short speeches by the National Museums Scotland Chair, Bruce Minto; the Chair of the Scottish Committee of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Dame Seona Reid (formerly known as the HLF, but renamed as part of their new strategic plan last week); and finally by Dr Gordon Rintoul, who as Director of NMS has seen the project through from the start. We then headed off to view the new galleries – covering ancient Egypt, East Asia and ceramic collections – and were left to ponder whether 15 years on, and with the changing fashions and expectations for museum display and experiences, whether it is time to start the whole process again, akin to painting the Forth Bridge.