With an urgent need to restore the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and with ambitions for our large and varied collections, Portrait of the Nation was our opportunity to create an innovative and exciting new gallery for the 21st century. The finished project brings together the building, the collections and our audiences to help us understand our nation's history and culture.

The Building

The Portrait Gallery opened in 1889. It was designed by renowned architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as the first purpose-built national portrait gallery in the world. The building has always been shared with other organisations, and was only recently made available to the National Galleries of Scotland in its entirety.

Portrait of the Nation has restored the building to its original design, opened spaces that have long been closed to the public, and created vital new learning and visitor facilities, such as a new Photography Gallery, Education Suite, Library and Visitor Hub and of course the very popular café.

You can see pictures and behind the scenes stories of the progress on the restoration and renovation of the building and our work on the collections on our Heads Up blog.

The Collections

There has been a dramatic increase in exhibition space, which now allows us to show more of our extensive collections than ever before.

The displays are based around broad 'Key Areas' and will change regularly, ensuring that there will always be something new to see, and different ways of seeing familiar pieces.

There is a new emphasis on Scottish Art and on photography, and we are using the web to reach those who cannot visit the Portrait Gallery in person.

Our Audiences

Enjoyment, inspiration and education for our visitors is at the heart of everything we do. The Gallery was built as a celebration of and a gift to the Scottish people, and our displays will have a broad appeal to a wide range of audiences.

Our programme of education activities has been expanded, and the new facilities enable us to offer a far more comprehensive experience to visitors, from primary school groups to adult learners.

A Greener Gallery

In order to create an appropriate environment for the artworks, museums and galleries have traditionally had to maintain very rigid levels of temperature and humidity. Now, with an approach developed specifically for the Portrait Gallery, we are using the passive control offered by the building itself - its bulk and structure buffering the internal environment from external conditions - thereby dramatically and permanently reducing our energy consumption.