The National Museum of Scotland’s Scottish galleries provide a fascinating insight into the nation’s history all year round, with their diverse collection of Scottish objects from prehistory to the present day.
Every object has a story to tell, and – from now until 29 January – you can hear twenty-six of them brought to life in the 26 Treasures exhibition.
A number of objects spanning Scotland’s history were selected, then paired randomly with twenty-six Scottish writers: poets, novelists, journalists, screenwriters and more. Each writer was then tasked with using exactly 62 words to capture something about the object in whatever style they wished.
We therefore have Elspeth Murray’s circular poem about the Bute mazer, novelist Harriet Smart’s elegy to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s travelling canteen, Sara Sheridan’s lyrical tribute to the Queen Mary harp – and twenty-three other evocative pieces which bring the objects’ histories to vivid and literary life.
There is a trail map accompanying the exhibition, allowing you to track down the objects across the galleries’ six floors. Each item also has a QR code next to it: scan this with your smartphone and you’ll be able to hear the writers read their pieces aloud.
Backed up by a series of events at the museum, 26 Treasures is an original and enjoyable way to explore the Scottish galleries: and to discover all the history, intrigue and drama behind this small part of its impressive collection.
Not only that, but members of the public have a chance to contribute to 26 Treasures themselves, via a tweet or 62-word entry about any object in the whole of the National Museum, in an online competition (where they can also win a Kindle).
Best-selling novelist Sara Sheridan has been instrumental in helping to bring this 26 Treasures to the National Museum of Scotland, which follows similar exhibitions in London, Ireland and Wales. There is now an online initiative to raise funds to have an anthology of all the participating writers’ works published in a book, which you can read more about here.