A visitor returning to the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland would certainly be taken aback: how the hell do I get in and why are there so many people in here on such a beautiful day? I used to walk past it on my way home from work. They had late opening on a Tuesday and if it was raining I would go in for a wander. It was badly lit, badly organised and there had been repeated attempts to modernise which were utterly useless.
There was however a masterplan to put things right: the neighbouring site was to become home to the Museum of Scotland and it would eventually link to the original Venetian inspired Victorian building. So out went the flea-bitten taxidermy, fusty display cases, stupid mezzanine levels and water features and in came the clarity of a well designed space and the second most important thing in a museum: light.
The entrance has been reworked so you go in at basement level and walk up to the splendour of the Grand Gallery which was bathed with dazzling sunlight on Saturday, the day after it had re-opened. The place was packed out so we only got about halfway around the exhibits.
Being a relatively small museum it keeps the quality up and the repetition down so it’s a child friendly place. The galleries have been opened up vertically to create neck-craning spaces filled with suspended exhibits. There are good exhibits on the ancient world and on design in the home. You can go up to a rooftop terrace for lunch and a fantastic viewing platform giving great views of the city. And it’s all free!