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Date May 2008 - November 2008

Event ID 577235

Category Building History

Type Conservation


NT 2557 7425. The building is a late 19th-century purpose built museum and art gallery. It was endowed by John

Ritchie Finlay in 1882, designed by Robert Rowand Anderson in a 13th-century French style, built in red sandstone, and completed in 1890. The similarities to and influences of Anderson’s Mount Stuart House on Bute for the 3rd Marquess of Bute are notable (DES 2007, 45–46).

Research revealed the extent of alterations during the 20th century, notably the replacement of floor and ceiling structures for fireproofing. Documentary and physical evidence proved that no original ceilings and roof construction survive today. The W part of the building was originally used by the National Museum of Antiquities and the E by the Portrait Gallery.

The western part was fireproofed from 1914, introducing new ceilings and roofs for the Museum of Antiquities. As part of these works the vaulted ceiling of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland library on the top floor was replaced. These works resulted in the loss of Anderson’s ceiling for the library and the close correspondence between shelf detailing and ceiling construction of Anderson’s original design was not reproduced in the new works.

Fireproofing works stopped with WW1 and were not resumed for the Portrait Gallery part until a fire threat in

1929. The Portrait Gallery side received new ceilings and roof in the 1930s, with a then state-of-the-art louvre fitting to diffuse lighting for the upper galleries. This was inspired by a contemporary construction at the Boyman Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The different treatment of the ceilings is still visible today.

The later alterations are remarkable for the respect paid to the original building. The building is still perceived as a 19th-century museum and gallery despite comprehensive and extensive alterations during the 20th century. The conservation plan was produced on work undertaken May–November 2008.

Archive: National Galleries of Scotland

Funder: National Galleries of Scotland

John Sanders, Jen Austin, Tanja Romankiewicz, Cath McFarlane and Joe Rock (Simpson and Brown Architects), 2008

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