Ten galleries, 3,000 artefacts ranging from aircraft to fashion and steam engines to textiles with the added challenge of daylight flooding in through skylights in some areas and no light at all in others.  The new galleries of the National Museum of Scotland gave Sutton Vane Associates the opportunity to create a series of distinct lighting designs to complement each space. 

“The key to making this a success was to listen to the artefacts and make sure the lighting tells the story that they are telling, working sympathetically to support their characteristics within the environment of each gallery” is how Mark Sutton Vane summed up the project.

The Science and Technology galleries include groundbreaking examples of industrial design that need robust and assertive lighting to expose all their fascinating detail.  The centrepiece is a three-storey-high space containing an aerial display of flight: five aircraft suspended in a stack which all need high-impact lighting to emphasise their individuality and to complement the daylight cascading down into the space from skylights in the roof.

In the Fashion and Style galleries the garments are the heroes of the space.  With no natural light we had the opportunity to create a glowing catwalk on which mannequins parade, displaying the bold and sometimes startling work of modern fashion designers.   We accented the individual garments with emphatic bright uplighting, allowing the garments to glow with a drama that is equally vivid when viewed from the galleries above.

More delicate objects are to be found in the Art of Living galleries where display cases provide protection and the job of the lighting designer is to ensure that each artefact achieves its visual prominence sympathetically without damage and without allowing the display cases to create distracting shadows across the display area.

It’s a project that delighted Mark Sutton Vane: “It’s incredibly rewarding to work with a collection like this.  Get it right and suddenly the space is talking to you.  The important objects are emphasised and shout for your attention while others are allowed to glow in the background.   The displays deserve to be dramatic, varied and endlessly interesting and a well thought-through lighting design absolutely supports that aim.”

Months in the planning and weeks on site paid off as the galleries were opened in spectacular style during July in time for the busy holiday season.