National Museum of Scotland

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

National Museums Scotland – A Centre of Global Excellence

The vision of George Wilson, the first director of what is now the National Museum of Scotland, was for “a museum of the world in relation to Scotland”. This statement, delivered two years after the museum was founded in 1854 is as true today as it was then. The roots of the collections held today include the earliest collections originally held by the University of Edinburgh’s Museum of Natural History, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and pre-date Wilson’s museum by more than 100 years. Today, National Museums Scotland also includes the National Museum of Flight, the National War Museum and the National Museum of Rural Life.

The National Museums Scotland collections are one of the most diverse in the world with 12 million items, spanning Scottish History and Archaeology; Art, Design and Fashion, Science and Technology; World Cultures and Natural Sciences, and employ the largest body of curatorial and conservation expertise in Scotland. The Natural Science collections are particularly extensive with over 10 million specimens covering vertebrate biology, invertebrates, palaeobiology and Earth Systems Science. Scientifically unique collections housed by the museum include the assemblages of Palaeozoic fish and extant North Atlantic whales alongside numerous historic collections such as those of Dufresne (incorporating many insects, molluscs and birds), the fossils of Hugh Miller, and collections from H.M.S. Challenger and Scottish National Antarctic expedition. Iconic items include Dolly the Sheep and “Lizzie”, the world’s oldest reptile at 345 million years old.

Our diverse collections will take you on a journey of discovery through the history of Scotland and around the world, taking in the wonders of nature, art, design and fashion and science and technology – all under one roof.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

RBGE’s extensive Herbarium numbers nearly three million specimens representing half to two thirds of the world’s flora. These specimens have been collected during a period of over 300 years, from nearly every country in the world. In addition to dried plants the Herbarium houses a spirit collection of more than 7,000 specimens. It is considered a leading botanical collection, and every year many researchers from around the world  visit to study our specimens.

Although the Garden was founded in 1670, the starting point for the Herbarium came with the fusion of the collections of the University of Edinburgh and the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1839-40. Over the years, a large number of collections have been added, belonging to individuals and institutions including the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Hull. The Herbarium had by 1960 expanded to include more than one and a half million specimens and had outgrown the original space, overflowing into four additional huts and other unsuitable buildings.

The new purpose-built Herbarium and Library building was was completed in 1964. In 2005-2006, the building was renovated and expanded to house an even greater number of cabinets. The refurbished and enlarged Herbarium building was re-opened in March 2006.

The RBGE Library is Scotland’s national collection of botanical and horticultural literature with more than 70,000 books, large collections of original artworks, manuscripts and other archival materials dating back to the 15th century. While the RBGE Herbarium and Library contain many historical objects, they are very much working collections. They provide a unique research facility that is used both by scientists based at the Garden and by researchers from around the world in exploring, explaining and conserving the world of plants.

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