Museum wins lottery cash to fund expansion plans

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A TREASURE trove of rarely seen items is set to go on display at the National Museum of Scotland after its expansion plans won lottery funding.

Bosses at the museum need to raise £12 million for the latest phase of its transformation, which will see eight new galleries created to feature science and technology and European art and design collections.

The plans have now been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which will hand over £4.85m towards the project, with many objects set to go on show for the first time in a generation.

Work on the new galleries is due to be complete by 2016, adding to the 16 galleries currently open at the Chambers Street site.

Among the items lined up for the new collections include early work by Peter Higgs, the Edinburgh University professor who leant his name to the Higgs boson “God Particle”, a tea service created for Emperor Napoleon in 1810 and the world’s first pneumatic tyre invented by John Boyd Dunlop in 1888.

The Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to Sir James Black for the discovery of beta blockers and anti-ulcer drugs would also go on show.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said opening the new galleries would enhance the attraction’s international appeal.

He said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded funding for the next stage in our masterplan for the National Museum of Scotland. This grant will enable us to move forward in creating a further eight new galleries, opening up access for everybody.

“The National Museum of Scotland is already one of the world’s great museums. This investment will further enhance its appeal and international ­importance.”

Last month it was revealed that more than two million visitors – double its target – had flocked to the revamped museum in the first year after it reopened in July 2011 following a £47m overhaul.

A series of major events, such as the ongoing Catherine the Great exhibition, have helped make it the most visited attraction in the UK outside London.

The HLF said it had awarded a “first-round pass” for the £4.85m grant as an endorsement of the outline proposals. The project meets the criteria for funding, and although the handout is not guaranteed, it is highly likely to go ahead.

Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “The transformation of the National Museum of Scotland has been a runaway success, surpassing all expectations. It has rekindled people’s interest in our history and heritage, with millions enjoying the fascinating artefacts on ­display.”