Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF. Tel: (+44) 131 225 7534 (voice),
(+44) 131 247 4027 (Minicom). Fax: (+44) 131 200 4819. The museum contains artefacts from around the world, encompassing geology, archaeology, natural history, science, technology and art. One of the more notable exhibits is Dolly the sheep, the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell. Other highlights include Ancient Egypt, one of Elton John's extravagant suits, the suspended whale skeleton and the Millennium clock. The wing which contains the aforementioned whale skeleton is temporarily closed for renovation, and will reopen in 2007. „
This museum is primarily a natural history museum, and a very good one. You are impressed from the moment you walk into this building as the main hall has an extremely high glass-topped roof with balconies at each level that are all very ornate and attractive. In the centre of the hall was a large indoor fish pond with Catfish and Goldfish, where you could sit on the surrounding wall and stroke the Catfish in the water. From the 1st April 2001 entrance to this museum has been free and that is wonderful news for visitors for such a big museum. The museum is split over three floors. On the Ground Floor are a lot of displays of stuffed animals featuring animals from all over the world, from small British birds to Elephants and Polar Bears. These are set out really well, but I felt the amount of information displayed about each animal was very limited, sometimes only a couple of sentences and a world map showing their natural location. With all the effort that has gone into acquiring the exhibits and setting them up I would have thought that the curators would have wanted to give a lot of information about each species. In the main hall there was a café with waitress service and at the back of the building there was a Tea Room. This room was pleasant enough but there was a very limited choice of food and it appeared to be very under staffed as you had to queue for ages to get served and it looked like the tables hadn’t been cleared for a long time. After clearing our own table we did enjoy the snacks we had there and the prices were OK. Also on the ground floor were the special exhibitions. At the time that we visited there were three special exhibitions: * Awesome Insects. This was aimed at the younger members of the family with loads of insects (all dead) to look at. Magnifying glasses were provided along with bright torches so you can really get a good look at all the little bugs, and some not so little. * Tutankamun&
#8217;s Wardrobe. I am afraid that looking at the clothes of an Egyptian Pharaoh did not appeal to us, so we gave this display a miss. This was also the only part of the museum you had to pay for, and at £3 each this made up our mind for us. * The Jackie Stewart Formula. Anybody that has looked at my list of opinions will see that there are quite a few about Formula One racing. I could have spent hours in this one part of the museum alone, but eventually the family dragged me away. There was the actual car that Johnny Herbert won the European Grand Prix with in 1999, a full mock up of the Stewart garage that they set up all around the world, displays, photographs, videos, a twenty minute film all about the Stewart Team and much more. This section really was excellent, but then I am a bit biased. Having a racing car at the museum may seem a bit out of place with all the animals, but this section led into the Science and Industry section. This was also continued on the Second Floor where there a display of the instruments of Science. Although these were very interesting sections, everything was “Do Not Touch”. I am sure that some of these displays could have been set up so that visitors could appreciate the exhibits better. For example, there was a fantastic collection of old ship’s telescopes. I really would have liked to look through some of these to see how efficient the craftsmanship was a few hundred years ago. On the First Floor there were displays of art, costumes and jewellery. Also a nature study section about fish and bird biology. This was the floor we spent the least time on, but this was just personal taste, the exhibits were excellent. The Second Floor had a very comprehensive display of rocks, minerals and fossils. There was a lot of associated information with the fossils, particularly time lines showing when the fossils were formed, and under what conditions. Following on from the fossils was a display
of skeletons which was very fascinating. As you wander around this museum you keep finding new rooms and exhibits and it certainly takes a few hours to appreciate all the displays here. Although there was plenty to see at the museum, the lack of anything to “do” was a little frustrating and hopefully this may change in time. The whole museum is very interesting and the range of subjects mean that there is something to appeal to everyone of any age. I would certainly recommend a visit.