26Treasures at the NMS

What can you say about a rock in 62 words?

That was the challenge set by the 26 Treasures Scotland project, a collaboration between the National Museum of Scotland and 26, a not-for-profit group that champions the cause of better writing in all areas of life. The creative response was to an object included in a treasure trail (of 26 objects)

that span Scotland’s story, from its geological roots to its technological future, taking in iconic objects and hidden gems along the way.

The plan is that visitors will use the 26 Treasures as a guide to wind their way around and through the museum galleries. Beside each object and interpretation panel a QR code plays an audio clip of the writer reading their creation piece. My object was the Lewisian Gneiss, the oldest treasure in the collections of NMS, Edinburgh.

On Saturday we went ‘live’ with performances and readings. Listening to each writer introduce their creative pieces and say a bit about their creative process brought another dimension to the project. It was like looking at a painting for the thirtieth time and finding something new. Some of the creative pieces had interesting back-stories, some of the writers made emotional connections to their objects – sometimes, both. It wasn’t so much a case of bringing history alive, but rendering Scottish history anew – looking at it through a fresh angle of perspective and revealing ideas and information long known yet little discussed.

So. Thank you Sara Sheridan, for introducing me to 26 and, with Jamie Jauncey, for sorting out the Scottish strand; thanks also to the NMS staff who worked hard to pull it all together, especially to Claire Allan for ensuring a smooth and well-planned day.

  • You can read the blogposts and listen to readings on the 26 Treasures section of the main NMS website.
The 26 Treasures project this year involved three museums – National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Wales and the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland – together they appear on the 26 Treasures Website.

What has this to do with books, dear Bookrambler, I hear you say…

Breaking News! An exciting development is the proposal to publish all the creation pieces from 26 Treasures 2011 as a collection with Unbound. John Simmons introduces the proposal and the project on the  Unbound website where you’ll also find details about how to vote and lend your support.