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HUGH CHEAPE, of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, describes plans to provide a permanent display for what has become the most important bagpipe collection in the country, since the museum recently acquired the invaluable Ross Collection of bagpipes. The want of a museum of piping in Scotland has long been a matter for comment. The only systematic display of bagpipes is in Newcastle, being the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. If England has a museum of the bagpipe, why has Scotland not got one?

The National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland has always had bagpipes in its collections and has frequently displayed a number of these. In 1976 the museum mounted a small exhibition of pipes, harps and fiddles during the Edinburgh festival, and in the intervening years has acquired consdiderably more material to illustrate the history of piping.

Within the last year, the museum has purchased the outstandingly important Ross Collection of bagpipes and associated material, thus making its total piping collection the most important in the country. In order to turn this pre-eminence to good account, the museum is planning to hold a large exhibition of piping and bagpipes to coincide with the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. This will be the largest single exhibition of its kind ever held in the UK, and the opportunity of gathering together so much material will not be lost.

On the basis of this exhibition, the National Museum will create a "Museum of Piping" as a permanent unit within its own collections. So long as it is within the National Museum of Antiquities, such a pipe museum can take full advantage of the 24-hour security and environmental controls with which the museum operates. It can also more readily take advantage of the major resources of the museum's sister institutions in Edinburgh—the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish United Services Museum and the Royal Scottish Museum, all of whom would demand that the same minimum conditions be met before they could lend material. Agreement has already been reached in principle with the National Library of Scotland for the loan of documents from their piping collections, which have long been recognised as the most important of their kind. The scope of the 1986 exhibition and of the proposed Museum of Piping can be approximately outlined thus:-

  • The early days—piping in mediaeval Scotland and the European tradition.
  • The music of court and burgh the "Lowland" tradition.
  • Song and dance and the bagpipe.
  • The Lowland or Border bellows bagpipe.
  • Chamber pipes and the "pastoral" bagpipe—the Uillean pipe in Britain and Ireland.
  • The Great Highland bagpipe and the Gaelic tradition.
  • The British Army and beyond.
  • Pipemaking in the 18th-20th centuries.
  • Reeds and reedmaking.
  • Music in manuscript and book.