Gaelic language and culture to be central to National Museum Scotland's summer exhibition Wild and Majestic

31 May 2019
National Museums Scotland has announced a partnership with Skye College/Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for its forthcoming exhibition Wild and Majestic.

National Museums Scotland has announced a partnership with Skye College/Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for its forthcoming exhibition Wild and Majestic, exploring how Scotland became established in the popular imagination as a land of wilderness, heroism and history, and how tartan, bagpipes and rugged, wild landscapes became enduring, internationally recognised symbols of Scottish identity.

Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland spans the period from the final defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. 

English & Gaelic narrative

Gaelic language and culture feature throughout the exhibition, with the main narrative presented in both English and Gaelic. The exhibition explores the efforts made to protect and revive elements of Gaelic culture in the wake of the post-Culloden crisis in Highland society. During this period, Scotland’s relationship with the European Romantic movement transformed external perceptions of the Highlands and was central to the birth of tourism in Scotland.

These developments would in turn influence the relationship between the Hanoverian royal family and Scotland, particularly George IV and, later, Queen Victoria.

Experts from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig have also assisted on the panel texts which will be presented in both English and Gaelic. Each section of the exhibition will include exploration of themes from a Gaelic-cultural perspective, and throughout the exhibition filmed interviews will reflect a range of perspectives, including Gaelic voices, on some contested historical themes about the period.

Exhibition highlights

The relationship between objects and the history of the Gaelic language will be shown through a rich selection of material, including:

  • The Red Book of Clanranald, written in Gaelic by the bards of Clanranald in the 17th and 18th centuries, containing poems and the traditional genealogy and history of the Macdonalds, one of the manuscripts which James McPherson consulted whilst researching Ossian
  • A Pipe Banner of the Royal Highland Emigrants, a British Army regiment raised in North America, with Gaelic inscription, c.1776
  • A handbill proclamation in Gaelic for the Repeal in 1783 of the Act of Parliament Prohibiting Highland Dress (1747)
  • An early Gaelic dictionary dating from 1828 which was commissioned by the Highland Society of London
  • The Lovat and Tullibardine Shield, made to the design of a highland targe, and named for two prominent Jacobites, which since 1903 has been the prize for best Gaelic choir at the Royal National Mod

Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said: “We at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig warmly welcome our partnership with National Museums Scotland. We value the opportunities involved in enhancing this landmark exhibition by illustrating the influential role played by Gaelic culture in providing essential ingredients to modern Scottish identity, an identity recognised and celebrated worldwide in art, literature, and song.”

QUICK LINK: Read July/August History Scotland for an expert exploration of the exhibition 


Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland

26 June to 10 November 2019
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.


(image: Colonel William Gordon by Pompeo Battoni, copyright National Trust for Scotland/Fyvie Castle)