FIRST World War soldiers bursting into song in art galleries and tutorials on how to dress like a 1940s pin-up are among the raft of events at this weekend’s Festival of Museums.
Workshops and activities will be held across Edinburgh and the Lothians, catering for a range of interests.
The 1940s theme of many of the events has already proved popular, with people snapping up tickets to make sure they do not miss out.
“It’s the biggest we have ever done. It’s bigger and better – there’s something for all ages,” says Joanne Orr, chief executive of Museums Galleries Scotland.
“It’s a chance to get out, explore the museums and try something different. All of the events are interactive.”
Participants can try out painting and drawing skills using 1940s techniques at Edinburgh College of Art, learn about medical advances or attend a family-style 1940s tea party at St Cecilia’s Hall Museum of Instruments at Edinburgh University.
Children can also learn about the Capital’s gruesome history, explore ancient fossils and hear about the work of conservationist John Muir.
A tenor and soprano dressed as a First World War soldier and nurse will perform with a pianist in the grand setting of the Scottish National Gallery on Sunday afternoon, as visitors mill around the art collection.
A special collaboration between the National Galleries of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival, the Ghosts in a Gallery event explores love in the face of the extraordinary sacrifices and challenges faced in the conflict.
Tricia Allerston, deputy director of the Scottish National Galleries, says she is excited about the event, organised to help commemorate the centenary of the Great War, after watching a rehearsal earlier this week.
“It was really interesting to hear the music. It’s very beautiful,” she says.
“We’ve been trying to link up and have music in unusual settings.
“Sundays are a busy time. We hope that people would just be coming in and be surprised to stop and think about it.
“It’s quite striking. Because the gallery has been recently refurbished, with red walls, it’s quite dramatic. The acoustics are really good.
“Hopefully it will intrigue and enchant people who come round.”
Meanwhile, St Cecilia’s Hall Museum of Instruments, on the Cowgate, will host a range of 1940s-style events today, including Make Do and Mend and Pin Up and Pout, which focus on the vintage dress-making and styling which contributed to women’s distinctive looks in the wartime era.
Lindsay Richardson, programme director of textiles at Edinburgh College of Art, says the workshops had already attracted a lot of attention.
“We are looking at how fashion was affected by the austerities of the war and by the restrictions of materials as well,” she says.
“The events are going to be giving people an understanding of what it was like when you couldn’t get things and when you had to work with what you already had.”
Ms Richardson said the events were particularly topical given the rising popularity of homemade gifts and customised clothing.
“In the 40s, they might have used a pair of men’s work trousers to make themselves an apron. It’s really about teaching how you could make something beautiful and exciting and interesting out of nothing.”
Fashion aside, St Cecilia’s will also host an event looking into at the medicinal advances of the 1940s.
Tomorrow’s talk – entitled Curing What Ails You: Medicine in the 1940s – will teach the audience about how the Second World War propelled the Lothians into incredible advancements in the treatment of brain injuries, at a time when the NHS was in its infancy.
And tomorrow afternoon, St Cecilia’s will host a Victory Kitchen Tea Party, where families can tuck into goodies inspired by rationed food.
There are plenty of other events to keep the kids occupied, with a Horrible Histories show at the Museum of Edinburgh today and tomorrow.
The grisly past of the Capital will be brought back to life in all its bloody – and gory – glory in a theatrical look at murderous, witch-hunting and body-snatching stories of the past.
And at the Almond Valley Heritage Centre at Millfield, Livingston, visitors will have the chance to learn about fossils.
Shale Tales and Fossil Fun will explore West Lothian’s industrial history in a storytelling and craft event for the whole family.
Youngsters will enjoy a shadow puppet session about shale mining and to learn a few fun fossil facts. They can also try their hand at making their own fossil or get busy with bees-wax and learn candlemaking techniques.
Meanwhile, in East Lothian, those with a love of the outdoors can learn about conservationist John Muir’s love of wildlife at the Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum.
This afternoon’s Wild Weekend for Wee Ones is specially designed for parents and children aged six and under.
Youngsters will get up close and personal with creatures including crabs, snakes, skunks and spiders.
There will be a Nature Play area based on the different senses, a buggy-friendly nature trail and imaginative play sessions.
Highlights from the museum’s collection will be on display, showing nature and wildlife from the local area, and there will be hands-on activities from the Ranger Service.
Ms Orr says: “Festival of Museums 2014 is a great opportunity for the Edinburgh and the Lothians community to reconnect with their local culture and history, learn something new and fascinating, and discover the hidden gems that surround them.
“This year’s programme is packed full of great events taking place in museums across Scotland throughout the weekend.
“Visitors of all ages will be delighted with the unique, educational and wonderful ideas and artefacts they will find throughout Scotland.”
Ms Orr says she hopes the festival would help lure people who are not regular museum-goers.
n The Festival of Museums is running from May 16-18. For more details on the timings of events at the festival, visit www.festivalofmuseums.com or call 0131-550 4100.