History takes a road trip

19th May 2000 at 01:00
Now Edinburgh's museums come to you, reports Deedee Cuddihy

A new travelling exhibition from the National Museums of Scotland looks, at first, like a cross between designer kitchen and science lab, with its impressive brushed steel and pastel coloured units featuring lots of little drawers, cubby holes, sliding panels and flaps.

In fact, it is a well-planned, condensed version of the interactive Discovery Centre at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Discovery on the Move which, like its parent, encourages children and adults to explore Scotland's past by investigating and evaluating evidence, was launched in Fife last month at Levenmouth sports centre. After there it went on to venues in Glenrothes and Lochgelly.

Jem Fraser, education officer for NMS museums, says: "Discovery on the Move aims to ensure that the population of Scotland has easier access to the collections of the National Museums of Scotland, regardless of geographical location. The exhibition is designed to have broad appeal, from school children and teachers to families and community groups. By bringing the national collections to more unconventional venues,NMS strives to reach members of the community who ordinarily would not visit museums."

Discovery on the Move will travel around Scotland in a special transit van, designed to hold securely the 12 free-standing units that make up the show.

Visitors are not presented with objects in a case and neat labels. Instead, they are asked to look at various types of evidence from the past, encouraged to ask questions and invited to come to conclusions based o the information gathered. Two experienced "facilitators" will travel with the exhibition to give a guiding hand.

The show starts with an investigation into what our rubbish might say about us in the future.

A unit on Scotland's rocks and fossils features the footprint of a small dinosaur that lived on Skye more than 160 million years ago.

One of the most fascinating parts of the exhibition centres on a burial in Scotland dating from Bronze Age times - 4,000 years ago. Visitors see a reproduction of the grave, including the bones and skull of a man and the tools, food and other objects he was buried with. Research showed that he had been laid on a mattress filled with moss and had been supplied with beer in a jug and a leg of pork.

Illustrations depict Bronze Age people casting axe heads from carved stone moulds, and you can try on an outfit of reproduction prehistoric clothes (complete with authentic kippered fish smell from the smoke-cured leather).

"Emigrations" deals very effectively with what made people in the past move either within Scotland or away from it. It uses such characters as James Mitchell who was forced from his home during the Highland Clearances and Nellie Bruce who travelled to Canada to work as a maid.

Activities include taking rubbings from fossilised bark, making clay impressions of prehistoric pottery and figuring out the use of several strange objects.

Discovery on the Move will be venturing out again in early autumn.

Tel Jane Fletcher on 0131 247 4199 for further information.

www.nms.ac.ukeducation Teachers' pack pound;4

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