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Perth Museum, new home of the Stone of Destiny, set to open

The “fabulous” museum which is the new home of the Stone of Destiny is gearing up to open this weekend following a £27 million redevelopment project.

Perth Museum in the former City Hall will open its doors to the public on Saturday.

Its centrepiece will be the Stone of Destiny, which has returned to Perthshire for the first time in more than 700 years, having originally been kept at nearby Scone.

The museum will also show treasures cared for by Culture Perth and Kinross which span the centuries, with highlights including the 3,000-year-old Carpow logboat, a sword believed to have been given to Bonnie Prince Charlie, Jacobite glassware, and a 17th century silk doublet.

JP Reid, exhibitions manager at Culture Perth and Kinross, said he is “delighted” the stone is back in the area.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s immensely significant the stone is back for the first time in 700 years, it’s absolutely intrinsic to this place, to Perth and the area around Perth and Scone.

“Scone was a major royal centre and the use of the stone there is bound up with the story of how Scotland emerges from the kingdom of the Picts and the kingdom of the Scots and the foundation of the early medieval nation effectively, the kingdom of Alba which becomes the kingdom of Scotland, and Scone and Perth are at the heart of that story.

“The stone is the perfect way of telling that because it is amazingly still a live ceremonial object, so we’re immensely excited to have it here.”

Stone of Destiny
The Stone of Destiny on display at its new home in Perth Museum (Jane Barlow/PA)

The museum’s debut exhibition, Unicorn, will explore the cultural history of Scotland’s national animal from antiquity to the present day, featuring items such as illustrations, manuscripts and tapestries with loans from museums around the world.

Helen Smout, chief executive of Culture Perth and Kinross, described having the Stone of Destiny at the heart of the museum as “really special”, and said the collections on show are globally significant and will have appeal both locally and nationally.

She added: “This is a fabulous new museum for Perth, which is an opportunity to display all of the wonderful collections that we have here, all of which are nationally recognised as being of significance, so it’s a great opportunity to get more of those on display and to tell the really rich history that we have here in Perthshire and why we’re so important to Scotland’s history in that wider sense.”

Visitors will have to book time slots to see the Stone of Destiny, which is free to view and is a highlight of the museum.

Perth Museum exhibit
A visitor views a piece of stained glass that forms part of the temporary exhibition Unicorn at Perth Museum (Jane Barlow/PA)

Also known as the Stone of Scone, it was long used in the inauguration of Scottish monarchs. However, in 1296, it was seized by King Edward I of England as war loot and taken to London.

It was built into a Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey and was used in the coronation ceremonies of Kings and Queens of England and, later, Great Britain after the Scottish and English crowns were united in the early 17th century.

In 1950, a group of students carried out a raid to steal the stone from Westminster Abbey and return it to Scotland to try and advance the cause of independence.

It was later found on the site of the High Altar at Arbroath Abbey, and it was used in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation three years later.

Perth Museum exhibition
Conservation officer Anna Zwagerman cleans Queen Victoria’s Coat of Arms plaque (1848), which is on display at the museum (Jane Barlow/PA)

The stone was formally returned to Scotland in 1996 to go on display at Edinburgh Castle.

Last year, the Stone of Destiny once again returned to London to carry out its traditional role in the coronation of King Charles, before coming back to Edinburgh Castle.

Perth Museum is operated by Culture Perth and Kinross on behalf of Perth and Kinross Council and is supported by £10 million from the UK Government as part of the Tay Cities Region Deal.

Councillor Grant Laing, Perth and Kinross Council leader, said: “Perth Museum will be a landmark attraction that brings Scotland’s history to life and is the culmination of our long-term cultural regeneration vision for Perth.

“It will significantly increase visitors from across the UK and internationally.

“It has created new skills and employment opportunities, and it will ignite our sense of civic pride in our beautiful and historic city.”