RBS Museum Lates

By Alyson Orme, Edinburgh Napier University Student who carried out a placement within the Learning and Programmes department in 2013

Since February I have been working on the public events at National Museums Scotland as part of my Events Management university placement. Based in the Learning and Programmes department, I have been working on large scale events at the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight and the National Museum of Rural Life. Each event has a different theme, from Wartime Experience to Robots Live, so it is no surprise that I have had a very interesting experience!

The first big event that I was involved in was Wartime Experience at the National Museum of Flight in May. This gave me an insight into the wonderful world of wartime re-enactment. I also made my career debut as a model for the press activity for Wartime Experience  and it ended up in the newspaper!

Alyson Orme modelling 1940s fashion for Wartime Experience, National Museum of Flight on Sunday 12 May 2013

Alyson Orme (far right) modelling 1940s fashion for Wartime Experience, National Museum of Flight on Sunday 12 May 2013.

The next big event was Robots Live in June. I was excited to see some battles in the Robot Wars arena and have a go at riding a Segway scooter.  I also discovered that I am more scared of a robot dinosaur than most small children. It was a really good and sunny day and I enjoyed seeing the end product of something that I had been involved in from start to finish.

Tyrone the animatronic T.rex performing at Robots Live, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Tyrone the animatronic T.rex performing at Robots Live, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

In July I became an equestrian expert at the Heavy Horse Show at the National Museum of Rural Life. My job was getting the right horses to the arena on time. This proved difficult at first, but by the end of the day the horses and I were on first name terms. As well as the public events at different sites, I have also enjoyed working at the RBS Museum Lates. I was involved in the Viking Lates in February and the Dino-Night in May. I loved working at the RBS Lates and seeing everyone’s themed costumes.  I also took full advantage of the many opportunities for animal handling at the RBS Lates during my placement.

Alyson Orme with a handling a hedgehog at a National  Museums Scotland event.

Alyson holding a hedgehog at an animal handling session event.

I have had the best time at the National Museums Scotland and met lots of great people who have made my placement really fun and interesting.  I don’t think anywhere else could have offered me the opportunity to work with so many crazy themes, meet people from all walks of life or hold so many small animals. I will be going back to University with lots of events management experience, obscure general knowledge facts and great memories.

Robert LowA guest post by author Robert Low of the Glasgow Vikings

There was a BBC programme I watched with my daughter when she was a wee girl – I am sure loads of people remember it. Mr Benn has become something of a cult since and you can still get the books, but for those currently scratching their bums and wondering what the hell I am talking about, I will explain.

Mr Benn was a cartoon character, a little bowler-hatted man who left his home at 52 Festive Road (go figure how I remember THAT!) and walked to a local shop, where a little man with a fez ushered him into a changing room. There Mr Benn put on whatever costume had been left for him, then exited through a back door and into an appropriate adventure. Eventually, the fez-hatted shopkeeper would usher Mr Benn back to the changing room and he’d put on his suit and bowler-hat – until the next time.

Mr Benn should be the patron saint of reenactors.

In the beginning, that’s what the hobby of Viking reenactment was all about – a dress-up pageant, where you could play ‘pretend’ and be six years old. It was enough to wrap strips of fake sheepskin Lamtex round your lower leg and climb into a biker jacket; any public entertainment was incidental, since this was just a bunch of like-minded overgrown weans rolling about in a muddy field. Even the women …

Of course, it did not stay like that. The Public started Asking Questions and, in order to answer them with at least some degree of sense and truth, folk began researching the period. After a while, the Lamtex went. Then the biker jackets. In the end, we had Authenticity Officers …

The Glasgow Vikings

Aaargh! The Glasgow Vikings in action.

Now, if you want to dress like a Viking, you purchase a copy of the 1958 movie of the same name. You drool over Kirk Douglas’ fabulous winged helmet, Ernest Borgnine’s magnificent jerkin of diamond-plate studs and – if you are a woman – Janet Leigh’s improbably-breasted dresses.

Then you grip it securely in both hands and sling it in the bin, since almost none of it is accurate.

What is accurate is surprisingly varied and versatile. Wool and linen and even silk as fabrics. Leather and sealskin, wolf, fox and other furs and skins. You can have almost any colour you like save, peculiarly, black – no-one in the Dark Ages found a mordant suitable to fix black as a permanent dye.

Viking costume wasn't drab

Viking costume doesn’t have to be drab.

We know this because the archaeology has exploded in the decades between when The Vikings began, back in the Sixties. There is hardly a woman in the Vike – or a man, now, for that matter – who does not know how to get yellow dye out of onion skins, or why Hiberno-Norse are the only ones allowed to wear purple (from heather) apart from the exotic Rhus of the Russian east (who got it from Byzantium). There are few Viking reenactors who do not know their proper status and why they can’t have ornamental bling with a plain, undyed tunic, or why a sword is a luxury item, or why their helmet has no wings or horns and never will have.

Robert Low in Viking helm - look, no horns!

Robert Low wearing a Viking helm – look, no horns!

It comes as a surprise to some and almost all of the public to find out how warm a wool cloak is in winter, or how wet-proof a pair of sealskin boots are, or how the Norse sailors developed the sleeping-bag in sealskin and foul-weather gear from walrus hide which as good as modern Neoprene.

Of course, getting all this gear isn’t easy. You can’t buy it, so almost all the Viking reenactor women I know are expert seamstresses. Most of the men can turn out a pair of simple leather shoes. Several are now expert armourers and have turned it into a full-time, museum-supplying business. Others make hats, leather belts and sheaths, silver jewelry … everything we wear is handmade, handstitched and lovingly crafted.

The Glasgow Vikings

Reenactors from the Glasgow Vikings.

Of course, you can’t walk out and club a cub these days – well, not without creating a bit of a stir – so all the skins and furs have to be laboriously sourced from countries who legitimately cull the likes of seal, wolf, boar and the rest. That then needs to be addressed in presentations to the public, especially in schools, where Glasgow Vikings in particular do a lot of serious primary education.

But the more we strive to educate and explain, the more interest is engendered and that manifests itself in many ways, from Time Team to the History Channel to museum funding for exhibitions such as this one.

So when you next see a Viking, take a long, hard look – all that gear, from his forged helmet to his leather soles, is unique, hand-made and an investment of love, time and money. We like to think that the decades of striving to be more than biker jackets and Lamtex have contributed to keeping alive an age long gone but not forgotten.

Find out more about Robert Low and the Glasgow Vikings here.

A guest post by Vic Galloway, BBC presenter

Vic hosts RBS Museum Lates: Behind the Masque on Friday 19 October 2012.

As a child, I remember school trips to the awe-inspiring National Museum of Scotland; where as impressionable, young boys and girls we’d stand agape surrounded by the exotic exhibits from throughout the ages. With its labyrinth of corridors and endless rooms of undiscovered beauty, history, art and science; it was like entering another world. Little did I think that many years later, I’d be lucky enough to host a spectacular and unique event within the very same place.

Now, with its state-of-the-art refurbishment and modern development, the museum is even more special; and counts as a must-see when visiting Scotland. Thanks to RBS Museum Lates you can now investigate this gorgeous space with interactive elements and a sublime sound-track of contemporary, Scottish sounds.

On 19th October, I’ll be introducing acts onstage as your host for the evening, whilst spinning the platters that matter in between. Having broadcast for over 13 years on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio Scotland and 6 Music, as well as my role as BBC TV presenter, DJ and journalist (including years of writing a column for ‘The List Magazine’); I’ve made a point of championing, supporting and shining a spotlight on the cream of Scotland’s cutting-edge talent.

I’m glad to see the RBS Museum Lates are on exactly the same page, and booking the kind of artists I have on my weekly BBC radio shows. I attended the last event when Django Django headlined to a capacity audience in fancy dress. In these wondrous surroundings, and with an enthusiastic and respectful crowd, it truly was a sight to behold with a magical atmosphere. I’m delighted to be involved this time, and will do my best to tweet throughout the night www.twitter.com/vicgalloway 

Miaoux Miaoux

Miaoux Miaoux

On the 19th, electronic wunderkind Miaoux Miaoux, aka Julian Corrie, will be showcasing tracks from his outstanding ‘Light of the North’ LP on Chemikal Underground Records and demonstrating how effortlessly he blends uber-melodic songwriting and up-to-the-minute electronic production, to make sparkling, new pop music. He will be ably supported by one half of another superb electronic act from Scotland, Conquering Animal Sound. As ANAKANAK, Anneke Kampman will no doubt welcome us into her strange but beguiling world of loops, beats, pops and bleeps. If you needed more, then the Silk Cut DJ’s will be opening the show with their mangled take on house and experimental, electronic sounds.

Silent disco dancing in Imagine gallery

If you’ve ever wanted to explore a museum at night, this is the time and place to do it. As well as the LIVE acts, you’ll be able to visit the Imagine Gallery, a chill out zone, a film screening and so much more.With so many different ways to enjoy yourself, and in an age when we are bombarded with pop-culture from every angle, it’s refreshing to be part of something that genuinely feels unique and exciting. So don a mask of your choosing (or make one of your own), grab a drink, have a wander around and pay a visit to the dance floor on what promises to be another phenomenal night at the museum. See you there!

Ally McCraeA guest post by Ally McCrae, BBC Radio 1 DJ

Ally hosts RBs Museum Lates: Night of the Mummy on Friday 24 February 2012.

Now it’s safe to say that the idea of playing records to a room of 1000 people while they enjoy their evening is a fairly cool one, one which I am lucky enough to get to do as a job, but getting asked to do it in a museum… at night… well, that was a different thing altogether.

I jumped at the chance to host and DJ at the first ever RBS Museum Lates event at the National Museum of Scotland; an awe-inspiring building with limitless possibilities as a venue. There couldn’t be a more interesting venue to host a night of forward-thinking artists playing to a totally diverse audience, spanning the years and tastes in musical genres.

Ally McCrae

Ally McCrae, BBC Radio 1 DJ hosting the RBS Museum Late: First Look Live on 11 at National Museum of Scotland November 2011

The first event was a night which saw me one second dancing in the silent disco to Dub Step, then the next I was looking up in wonder at the magnificent Millennium Clock Tower in full swing as the wonky hip hop beats of S-Type blared out behind me, a unique juxtaposition.

Promoting new Scottish music is what I spend my days doing, but going to an event where new acts can play to a great crowd whose minds are already open new things, in a completely unique situation – I may be out of a job soon. A great event for the acts, even better if you are the one experiencing it.




Anita BriggsBy Anita Briggs, Digital Media Content Creator

RBS Museum Lates: First Look Live was a journey into unknown territory  for National Museums Scotland and proved to be a roaring success.

We’ve had the idea of having an after hours event for the 18+ age group for a while and, with the support of the RBS Group, RBS Museum Lates was conceived. Tickets went on sale in the first week of October and were completely sold out within a fortnight! All together some 1,200 were distributed, and they proved to be the hottest tickets in Edinburgh.

Many departments, led by our Learning and Programmes team at National Museums Scotland, worked together to bring First Look Live to fruition and this led to the exciting line up and array of live acts and activities on the night at the National Museum of Scotland.

Radio 1 DJ Ally McCrae played host to a stellar line up of Scottish talent, with exclusive performances by Ben Butler & Mousepad, S-Type and Found. A Chillout Zone provided a laid-back calm in the South Hall with face painting and retro games. The Imagine gallery became the cool dance spot with Silent Disco from Fresh Air FM under the watchful eye of the giant Chinese Dragon.

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Special activities could also be found in Natural World galleries with safari snaps and creepy crawly encounters, bracelet making on the Magic Carpet in World Cultures and contributing to an evolving artwork in the Connect gallery.

As a roving photographer, I took shots throughout the evening of before and during the event and uploaded these to Flickr and posted regular tweets on Twitter.  A time lapse video of the action in the Grand Gallery was captured showing the whole event from set up to finale too!

You can see more of the live action here:

This is what some of those that came on to First Look Live had to say

“This is just a really good idea for an alternative night with friends!”

“Music and drink make standing in a museum more fun.”

“Fantastic venue and concept – awesome silent disco.”

“Vibrant atmosphere, a great feeling of excitement on entering the Grand Gallery, v-well put together, an unexpected and different night out.”

“Music and hot booze in a wonderful environment and I’ve had a good look at this rock!”

“It was all amazing! Loved every bit  music everything. No kids!”