Our collections in the movies

While we are all stuck at home a lot of our conversations over the morning video conference involve creative ways to keep busy in these strange times.

We have all seen the virtual tours of museums around the world thanks to Google Streetview and their amazing initiative which allows visitors to walk virtually through our galleries from anywhere in the world, but how else can people engage with our collections from the comfort of their own living rooms? How about watching some films featuring, or based on, some of our iconic collections and museums? 

Here are the National Museums Scotland’s, Science and Technology Section’s top recommendations for films with direct, or sometimes indirect, links to our collections: 

1. The Wife (2017)

A view of Scotland’s Concorde at the National Museum of Flight.

Some might say this is a film about gender politics, love and betrayal starring Glen Close and Jonathan Pryce; we say it’s a film starring our beautiful G-BOAA Concorde making a fictional flight from the US to Stockholm (and the other stuff too). You can read all about the Hollywood film stars (human and aircraft) filmed at the National Museum of Flight in Ian Brown’s blog post from 2018.  

2. The Flying Scotsman (2006)

A wonderful biopic of the great Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree and his world record breaking homemade bicycle Old Faithful. The film, starring Jonny Lee Miller, tells the remarkable story of how Obree came to break the World Hour Record in 1993 on a bicycle he built himself, fashioned from scrap metal and washing machine bearings. The original Old Faithful is on display at the National Museum of Scotland.  

Graham Obree’s Old Faithful bicycle on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

3. Rebus: The Falls (2006)

Ok, this is a TV drama not a film, but it was inspired by the Arthur’s Seat Coffins. Scottish author Ian Rankin based his 2001 Inspector Rebus novel on these enigmatic and rather sinister little coffins and their inhabitants. The original coffins are on display in the museum, and replicas were made for the TV adaptation. The National Museum of Scotland even gets a brief cameo.

If you are a fan of Ian Rankin you may also enjoy another of his novels adapted for TV; Doors Open (2012). This is a thankfully fictional account, starring Douglas Henshall and Stephen Fry, of an art heist from the National Museums Collection Centre

4. Harry Potter

Look out for other National Museums Scotland collections showing up in some famous films, such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) for the Lewis Chessmen coming to life in Wizard Chess, 

as well as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) for Xenophilius Lovegood’s printing press based on our own Cossar Press.  

Cossar web-fed newspaper printing press, printed the Strathearn Herald from 1907 to 1991.

The Transport Section also recommends

The First of the Few (1942) for a heroic wartime retelling of R J Mitchell’s development of Spitfire.

Or for maritime enthusiasts we suggest High and Dry (aka The Maggie, 1954) for some beautiful shots of the Puffers on the Western Isles, from a story which owes a lot to the Para Handy books and films; not to mention, of course, Whisky Galore (either the original 1949 version or the modern 2016 one) for more excellent Scottish coastal action. 

If railway fans are feeling left out, well what could be better than The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) in glorious technicolour, or back to the Harry Potter films for the Hogwarts Express speeding across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. 

Something for everyone!   

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