National Museums Scotland

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The collections of what is now National Museums Scotland were built over more than two centuries, with two strands of history coming together in the story of the organisation’s development. First the desire to have a museum reflecting Scottish history and second the wish to have a museum demonstrating international cultures, natural and physical sciences, and decorative art for Scotland.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was founded in 1780, very much in the spirit of the Enlightenment, to collect the archaeology of Scotland. Its collections passed into public ownership in 1851 as the original collections of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. In 1985 the National Museum of Antiquities was amalgamated with the Royal Scottish Museum. The latter was founded in 1854 as the Industrial Museum of Scotland and reflected the impetus of Victorian ideals of education. It started international collecting and research as well as forming close links to the collections and teaching of Edinburgh University, which continue today. Renamed the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art, it opened in its first bespoke buildings, designed by Francis Fowke, on Chambers Street in 1866. The 1985 amalgamation created the largest multi-disciplinary museum in Scotland, with 12 million items in its collections and the largest body of curatorial and conservation expertise in the country. Today, National Museums Scotland includes the National Museum of Scotland, the National War Museum, and the National Museums Collections Centre - a research, storage, and conservation facility in Edinburgh, as well as the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian, and the National Museum of Rural Life in Lanarkshire.

National Museums Scotland started acquiring material culture from West Asia and North Africa in 1854. Today, material from West Asia comprises more than 4,000 items from a geographical area that spans from Turkey to Central Asia to Yemen, alongside over 500 objects in our collections from North African countries. Dating from the 7th to the 21st centuries, they give an insight into the past and the present of the people living in these regions, particularly through representations of their different crafts, and the skills and social values associated with them. The museum’s collections reflect British and Scottish collectors’ interests in the Islamic world and embody entangled colonial histories and interrelations.

Chambers Street,
Edinburgh EH1 1JF
T + 44 (0)300 123 6789

Principal Curator, West, South and Southeast Asian collections, Middle East & South Asia / Department of Global Arts, Cultures and Design
Friederike Voigt
T +44 131 247 4291
F +44 131 247 4330

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