National Museums Scotland announces 2021 exhibition programme

26 November 2020
Elongated pendant of gold with inset object, probably stone, from Viking Galloway Hoard
One of the archaeological finds of the century, spectacular wildlife and the revolutionary impact of the typewriter are among the highlights of the 2021 exhibition programme at the National Museum of Scotland.

After an unprecedented five months’ closure, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh reopened its doors, welcoming visitors back from Wednesday 19 August. Thoughts now turn to the new year, as Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland, explains: 

“Having successfully reopened our museums, it’s wonderful now to be able to announce an exciting programme of special exhibitions and displays for the year ahead. The programme reflects the wonderful diversity of our collections and our work with several of the exhibitions covering important themes. The Galloway Hoard embodies one of our core strengths as the global centre for Scottish history and archaeology. It is important also for us as a national museum to engage with the challenges of climate change, a key issue for our times, and we do so directly in two exhibitions next year. 

It is, of course, strange to be announcing a programme for 2021 against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic. However, while there are difficult times ahead for us all, recent developments give us cause for optimism that things will be better next year. Assuming that is the case, I hope this programme of exhibitions will give people reason to visit and revisit their National Museum in 2021.” 

Click here for details of History Scotland's Mary Queen of Scots webinar with NMS's Dr Anna Groundwater

2021 exhibitions at the National Museum of Scotland

The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure (19 February to 9 May 2021) brings together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around the beginning of the 10th century, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects in one discovery. The Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014 and acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and ArtFund as well as a major public fundraising campaign. The exhibition will reveal the detailed conservation work carried out, the exciting research discoveries made so far, and some of the mysteries that scholars will keep working to solve now and for many years to come. The exhibition is supported by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers. Thanks to support from the Scottish Government, it will thereafter tour Scotland, starting next summer at Kirkcudbright Galleries. 

Recognising the world’s best nature photography every year since 1965, Wildlife Photographer of the Year (25 June to 3 October 2021) is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. This exhibition, supported by players of Peoples’ Postcode Lottery, will feature the recently announced winning entry by Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov of a Siberian tiger scent-marking a fir tree as well as nearly 100 other shortlisted entries from 25 countries around the world, shown in a series of spectacular backlit, large scale prints. 

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The Typewriter Revolution (28 May to 26 September 2021) examines the social and technological impact of the typewriter over more than 100 years. The mechanisation of writing in the late 19thcentury revolutionised the world of communications, transforming office work and opening up new employment opportunities, especially for women. The exhibition will explore the technology behind this iconic machine – from early prototypes through to electronic versions – as well as its role in society, the arts and popular culture. The Typewriter Revolution will showcase National Museums Scotland’s historically significant collection of typewriters, from an 1875 Sholes & Glidden typewriter, which was the first to have a QWERTY keyboard, to the 1970s design icon, the Olivetti Valentine. 

From striking statement jewellery to glass and porcelain vases, Japanese Contemporary Design (5 March to 15 August 2021) looks at how Japanese contemporary makers combine traditional and innovative subjects and materials, and reflects some of the developments in art, craft, and design in Japan over the past 50 years. Japanese Contemporary Design includes two new recent acquisitions by female ceramic artists which will be on display for the first time.  

Sea Change: Art and Environment in Oceania (29 October 2021 to 17 April 2022) will show contemporary responses to climate change and plastic waste by Indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander artists. The exhibition will highlight the vulnerabilities of Oceanic countries to climate change whilst showcasing the strength and resilience of its communities. It also explores the different ways in which Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islanders reuse and recycle waste materials, such as plastic, found on their land and in their seas. The exhibition will show a range of recent acquisitions and historical collections.  

Scotland’s Climate Challenge (24 September 2021 to 27 March 2022) will use National Museums’ collections to show the evidence for rapid, dramatic climate change and its potential consequences.  It also presents exciting opportunities for National Museums to collect examples of technological solutions to the emergency which are being pioneered in Scotland, from water, solar and wind power to geothermal and bioenergy. The display will coincide with the UN's climate summit, COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November 2021.  

Inspiring Walter Scott (6 August 2021 to 9 January 2022) coincides with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes credited with the invention of the historical novel, Scott himself was an antiquarian and collector. He was an active member of the Society of Antiquaries for Scotland, whose collections went on to form the initial core of the Scottish collections of National Museums Scotland. The display shows how Scott drew upon these real historical objects for inspiration in his writing.

For more on the National Museum of Scotland, visit their website.

Report and Galloway Hoard image courtesy National Museums Scotland. Tiger image copyright Sergey Gorskov