On the shoulders of giants

Wednesday 5th August 2009
This Hindu sculpture arrived in St Andrews in 1839. By tradition it is associated with the invention of the rubber golf ball, supposedly packed in gutta percha.

The Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA), the Gateway Galleries and the Bell Pettigrew Museum have now all been officially 'Accredited' by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). Opened by novelist Ian Rankin in November 2008, MUSA tells the story of Scotland's oldest University through the display of artefacts and artworks collected over 600 years with state-of-the-art displays and hand-on interactives in four themed galleries, it has an education centre, the Learning Loft, and a viewing terrace. But Museum is probably still the least well known of the Scottish museums.

The MLA conferred a special commendation under the Accreditation scheme stating: "The University is committed to providing diverse interpretation tools that appeal to a broad audience, balancing information with unique interactives, to create a valuable community resource that reaches beyond users from higher education institutions."(Right, rubber golf balls)

The Gateway Galleries are the University's temporary exhibition venue, housing around four exhibitions each year on a diverse range of themes relating to the collections, from art and archaeology to science, medicine and Scottish history.

The Bell Pettigrew Museum  is the University's museum of zoology. Displays are arranged to explain evolutionary and taxonomic relationships between animals and is used as a teaching facility of the University's School of Biology during term-time. (Left: Sir David Brewster (Principal of the United College 1838-59) pioneered the stereoscope. This Taxiphote is an early French version of the instrument, used to explain how the eyes work together by comparing various stimuli.)
It is open to the public on Tuesday and Friday afternoons during the University's summer vacation.

(Right: Matthew Forster Heddle, Professor of Chemistry 1862-84, was a great collector of Scottish minerals and was one of the excavators of the Dura Den fossil fish.)

The MLA's Museum Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for all museums in the UK. The awards to the University's three museum sites shows that they meet high national standards, in the care of collections, museum management, and the services provided to visitors.

Senior Curator, Helen Rawson, commented, "We are delighted to have received these awards which reflect the high quality of the museum provision and the University's commitment to public access to its collections.

"MUSA is already receiving well in excess of predicted visitor figures, and we hope that these awards will draw even more people to see and enjoy the museums and displays, and perhaps participate in our exciting programme of events and activities for all ages."

Andrew Motion, (left) chair of MLA, said, "Being awarded Accreditation is an impressive achievement. It recognises the high standard and service that these museums provide and acknowledges the hard work of the staff."

The Accreditation certificates will be officially 'unveiled' this Friday (7 August)  evening, during the opening of the temporary exhibition 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants', an exhibition at the Gateway Galleries exploring six centuries of discovery, innovation & experiment in Natural Philosophy and Physics at the University of St Andrews.

Information on the Museums. Admission is free of charge.

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