For six and a haltyears letters have come in regularlytothe Royal Museum of Scotland bemoaning the removal of the planetarium. The History 01 Science Gallery where itwas displayed. was closed in 1979 to install new. modern cases. But it did not re-open as planned. Lack of lunds and cut-backs gave rise to along delay. Being onthe toplloordid nothelp matters eitherandthe more trequently visited galleriesbelowtook priority. Though undertirelromtans olthe

planetarium. made speciallytorthe museum in 1910. the years otclosure have given the two curators. Alison Morrison-Lowe and Allen Simpson time to polish up and build on the collection in theircare. Displays had notchanged since the turn olthe century. Nowadays the public place greaterdemands onthe quality of museum displays and expect more than a cluttered pile of related objects squashedtogetherin a badly-litcase— a sightnotuncommon in yesterday‘s (and still some oltoday‘s) museums. Dry and dusty is a thing of the past. Informative. attractive and even exciting are the labels olthe future. So the collection was given a new sparkle (there‘s an awful lotolbrass about). The planetarium itself was one 01 the casualties ottime. but after restoration (see picture). it now gleams like a giant crystal ball. Gone is the grinding sound which accompanied its movements in the pastand whenthelootpedal is pressed now. the planets will turn and the moons orbit as silently as the universe itselt.

Though science is a subject many left behind with relief intheirschooldays. this collection and its history is mesmerising. It seems thatthere was

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no limit to the number of variations on an instrument. Take the globes. The plan of the celestial hemisphere on a large 17th century globe showing Hercules. Lyra. the twisting green snake Serpens and their universal companions may belong to science but is also a fantastical piece of decorative art. There are globes ot the stars and globes 01 Mars and even a covetable little pocket globe complete with its own sharkskin case. but missing hall of America and Australia. as yet uncharted.

Most 01 the exhibits have played an important role in the revolution of

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3‘ i 0- .1" 11 Y7 science—the Nicol prism. William Herschel‘stelescope, J. D. Forbes deep-earththermometer—and show Scotland‘splacein its development, butthere is still room torthat element 01 eccentricity associated with scientists andtheirart. Amongstthis amusing breedisaspidery Heath Robinson-like drawing machine. used lor copying and Charles Piazzi Smith‘s Great Pyramid ScalelorTemperature which hetriedtointroduce asthis country's standard. To think we may all have talked aboutthe day being grassy cold orllowering hot!

The new gallery will open on Sun 23 Mar.

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