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10 Exhibitions Not to Miss this Summer in Scotland

by Paul Joseph  |  Published June 25, 2021

Scotland’s cultural output extends far beyond the Edinburgh Festival, with the nation home to a huge number of museums and other institutions, many of which are hosting some great exhibitions this summer.

(Photo: National War Museum)

The length and breadth of Scotland is positively teeming with history and culture, with the nation’s often tumultuous past evident in well-preserved monuments and landmarks. If you’re planning to visit Scotland this summer, we’ve picked out 10 of the best exhibitions taking place that you may want to add to your itinerary.

Legacies of Empire

This thoughtfully curated exhibition examines the histories connected to objects brought back from colonial conflict by the military forces of the British Empire down the ages. All of the objects featured were taken, purchased or otherwise collected by British military and naval personnel during colonial wars or garrison service across the British Empire – a time of European expansion from the 18th to the 20th century that remains deeply controversial and widely debated today.

National War Museum, Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh / 27 November 2020 – 30 January 2022

The Typewriter Revolution

(Photo: National Museum of Scotland)

Exploring the social and technological impact of typewriters over more than 100 years, this exhibition charts the development of these iconic machines. Among the display are early typewriter prototypes, as well as cherished models such as the 1876 Sholes and Glidden typewriter – the first to have a QWERTY keyboard – a 1950s electric machine used by Whisky Galore author Sir Compton Mackenzie, and the 1970s design legend, the Olivetti Valentine. Also explored is the representation of typewriters in the arts and popular culture down the years.

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh / 24 July 2021 – 17 April 2022

Flying into the Future Trail

Discover how engineers are working to make air travel less damaging to the environment with this immersive museum trail this summer. From 26 June, visitors can download or pick up a brand new family-friendly museum trail that invites you to see what’s being done in the field of aviation to help save the planet. Along the way you’ll learn about the challenges faced by the industry and learn more about some of the innovative solutions that could be used in the years to come.

National Museum Of Flight, East Fortune Airfield, North Berwick / 26 June – 31 October 2021

Ruined | Reinventing Scottish History

(Photo: Scottish National Gallery)

The fruition of four years of work by a collection of young Scots under the banner of the Image Liberation Force project, this exhibition imaginatively ‘mashes-up’ works from the National Galleries of Scotland collection. Visitors can witness shocking events and ghosts from Scotland’s past, as they enter a time machine in which multiple video projections flicker across a set of ruins. False heroes and heroines, wicked tyrants and bloodied martyrs, the angry mob, hard borders, sad religions and unwatchable violence – all brought to life amid the ruins of this Scottish fantasy.

Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh / 26 June – 14 November 2021

Time and Tide: The Transformation of the Tay

It’s fair to say that Dundee would not exist without the Firth of Tay River Tay –  a firth on the east coast of Scotland, into which the River Tay empties – nor have transformed from a small medieval settlement to the nation’s fourth largest city.  The Tay is well known for the quality of its landscapes and wildlife and this exhibition looks at the influence it has has had on Dundee, and how the growth of the city, particularly along the waterfront, has affected the Tay, its wildlife and the people who live here.

The McManus Art Gallery & Museum, Albert Square, Meadowside, Dundee / Through 3 October 2021

Into the Maelstrom: The Scottish Kayak Expedition to North West Norway 1980

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Scotland’s first major sea kayaking expedition, this exhibition charts the story of Jim Breen, Angus Mathieson, Bill Turnbull & Peter Wilson who, together, paddled 394 miles as they circumnavigated the two island groups of Lofoten and Vesterålen in North West Norway, 200 miles within the Arctic Circle. During the 28-day expedition, the team also successfully achieved the first ever crossing of the ‘Maelstrom’ or, as it is sometimes known, the ‘Moskenstraumen’. The exhibition includes two of the four ‘Baidarka Explorer’ kayaks, equipment, clothing, footage and photographs from the expedition.

 Scottish Maritime Museum, Linthouse Building, Harbour Road, Irvine / Through 30 August 2021

D-Day: Soldiers of Sacrifice Sculpture

(Photo: Neville Williams)

The poignant ‘D-Day Soldiers of Sacrifice’ sculpture by Alfie Bradley will be visiting The Black Watch Castle and Museum, its first time in Scotland, this summer. Funded by the National Heritage Lottery and commissioned by the D-Day Story Museum in Portsmouth, the sculpture commemorates the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and provides a lasting tribute to the lives lost in the first 24 hours of the Normandy landings.

The Black Watch Castle and Museum, Hay Street, Perth / 17 July – 30 August 2021

Whistler: Art and Legacy

(Photo: Hunterian Art Gallery)

This major new exhibition explores the development of the artistic practices of acclaimed American painter and etcher James McNeill Whistler – who spent his working life in Britain and France – and the role that the city of Glasgow played in supporting him, and in forming his creative legacy. The exhibition probes some of the lesser-known corners of Whistler’s body of work, including numerous drawings, watercolours, pastels, lithographs, and etchings, together with private papers and contents gleaned from his original studio.

Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 82 Hillhead Street, Glasgow / 9 July – 31 October 2021

Night Fever: Designing Club Culture 

(Photo: V&A Dundee)

The first major exhibit to explore the relationship between club culture and design from the 1960s to the present day, this vivid exhibition uncovers the progressive and subversive history of nightclub design, and its far-reaching influence on popular culture. Delving into iconic clubs in New York, Paris, Florence, Manchester, London, Beirut, Berlin, it invites visitors to discover how architecture, art, fashion, graphics, lighting, performance and sound all come together to create an immersive sensory experience where design, music and technology meet on the dancefloor.

V&A Dundee, 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee / Through 9 January 2022

British Art Show 9

This landmark touring exhibition celebrating the vitality of recent art made in Britain stops off in Aberdeen this summer. Developed at a particularly precarious moment in Britain’s history, which has brought politics of identity and nation, concerns of social, racial and environmental justice, and questions of agency to the centre of public consciousness, the artists presented in the exhibition respond in critical ways to this complex context. Through the mediums of film, photography, painting, sculpture, performance, and multimedia projects, they imagine new futures, propose alternative economies, and explore new modes of resistance and find ways of living together.

Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, Aberdeen / 10 July  – 20 October 2021