HLF backs £multimillion project to transform Scottish National Portrait Gallery

By Culture24 Staff | 30 March 2009
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a photo of a large building with gothic windows and corner towers

(Above) The Scottish National Portrait Gallery - a Victorian architectural masterpiece built in 1889. © Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world, Edinburgh’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG), is to be transformed into a state of the art attraction highlighting Scottish heritage and history, thanks to a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A grant of £4,531,000 will double the amount of gallery space within the Victorian architectural masterpiece, increasing the number of items displayed by 350%.

The ambitious project, called ‘Portrait of the Nation’ promises a modern and dynamic gallery using new media and sensory experiences to engage the visitor - staff hope the modifications will result in a 50% increase in visitors.

“New life will now be breathed into this beautiful historic building,” said Colin McLean, Head of HLF in Scotland. “Treasures that have been stored away for years will be brought out to showcase Scotland’s history through the portraits of those who shaped it. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to be able to support ‘Portrait of a Nation’ and in doing so, support Edinburgh as a leading European cultural destination.”

The SNPG will be able to mine its store of 30,000 portraits and photographs depicting men and women whose lives and achievements helped shape Scotland and the wider world. There will also be a dedicated education suite, auditorium, IT gallery and research and learning centre to inspire school groups and adult learners.

a close up of banners on the side of a building

The SNPG will be able to mine its store of 30,000 portraits and photographs depicting men and women whose lives helped shape Scotland. © Scottish National Portrait Gallery

James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery said he was delighted with the support from the HLF. “Their confidence in the scheme is a terrific boost at this critical stage of the project,” he said. “Portrait of a Nation will enable us to create an imaginative and bold portrait gallery suitable for Scotland in the 21st century for the enjoyment of the Scottish people and visitors to Scotland.”

It comes at a time when National Museums Scotland are engaged in an ambitious three year Royal Museum Project, a £46.4 million redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland site in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. The development will see 14 new galleries, two hands-on discovery centres, a larger gallery for international touring exhibitions, new facilities for education and a state of the art learning centre.

HLF has also announced a stage one pass* for the restoration of Abbotsford House in the Borders. The former home of Sir Walter Scott is embarking on a restoration that will see the preserved but fading interiors and gardens of the great novelist’s former home sympathetically restored to its former glory.

The HLF first-round pass* means that Abbotsford House can now progress to the second stage of the HLF application process. They have up to two years to submit more detailed plans and apply for the £4,448,000 of HLF support that they are seeking for their project.

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