Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

National Museums Scotland collections centre houses 10 million objects

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Media captionA look around the National Museums Scotland new collection storage facility in Edinburgh

National Museums Scotland has unveiled a new storage facility that houses nearly 10 million objects from across the world - and beyond.

The state-of-the art facility was build to help preserve its Scottish History, Archaeology and Natural Sciences collections.

It will also allow greater access to the national collections, particularly for research purposes.

It has been formally opened by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

The collections centre is now home to objects ranging from a Nephanes Titan beetle, which is less than a millimetre long, to the 5.2m-long skull of a sperm whale.

Image copyright Neil Hanna

The oldest object is a 4.5 billion year-old meteorite, while the heaviest is a Roman tombstone found at Carberry in East Lothian, in the late 1990s which weighs more than 360kg.

The new site in the Granton area of Edinburgh has enabled National Museums Scotland to leave Leith Customs House and a facility at Port Edgar underneath the location of the new Forth Crossing.

The three storey building stands nearly 15m (50ft) tall and has a floor area of approximately 6,000 sq m.


Huw Williams, BBC Scotland reporter

There are ten million objects in the new facility. And it's a bit like a cross between Aladdin's cave and that secret government warehouse we see at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It holds everything; from a Roman gravestone which probably isn't Roman at all but a 19th Century fake; a four and a half billion year old meteorite; thousands of preserved birds and pickled sea creatures; right through to leaflets from last year's independence referendum, and publicity from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

So, the collecting never stops. And neither does the research.

The objects are not on public display. But all being together in one place will make them more accessible. While I was there today I met a PhD student earnestly measuring the skulls of extinct Java tigers.

And like any flitting, moving the collections into their new home has thrown up some surprises.

Curators discovered a unique horse hair hat which dates from a least 1,000 BC. There's nothing like it known in any other collection.

And the National Museums didn't know they had it either, till someone looked in a shoe box they found at the back of a dusty shelf.


It includes dedicated work benches with data and power points installed in each storage area, allowing collections to be set out for research, viewing and examination.

It also includes areas with dedicated environments for vulnerable objects, such as archaeological metal work.

A huge programme of sorting and ordering collections prior to and during the move means they are both better organised and more accessible.

The National Museum Collections Centre site also houses science and technology, world cultures, fashion and textiles, decorative art and design and transport collections, as well as conservation and research laboratories.

It is open to researchers around the world by appointment, and the new building will be open to visitors on this year's Doors Open Day.

The Scottish government provided £12m to fund the building.

Bruce Minto, chairman of the Board of Trustees of National Museums Scotland said: "It is extremely important that the collections which are not on public display but which have enormous significance, particularly to researchers across a huge range of disciplines and countries, are kept in such a way that assures their good condition in perpetuity and which is properly organised and accessible."

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