The Scottish National Portrait Gallery want your children to become Portrait Detectives
New events to get kids interested in the refurbished Gallery
Under wraps for the past two and a half years, the newly re-opened Scottish National Portrait Gallery cuts quite a dash. But for younger visitors, the wow factor generated by a £17 million spend can be hard to see.
Which is why events like Portrait Detectives are so important. Held once a month for two hours on a Sunday afternoon, this drop-in affair is a lo-fi, old school way to enjoy art – but works perfectly. It’s also, like the gallery itself, completely free.
On the surface, this imposing historic building can appear a little austere – a place where children should be seen and not heard. But nothing shakes up a preconception like a little dressing up, and before children can even attempt to solve the mystery of the month, they’ve got to look the part.
Handed a kit bag on arrival, containing a Sherlock Holmes-style hat, magnifying glass, pencil case and false moustache, participants are encouraged – but not required – to get into the detective spirit. Suitably clad, young sleuths set off around the room, attempting to locate the painting from which the small segments on their hand-out derive.
Could it be the wig of a nobleman, a sash worn by a queen or the sporran of a soldier? As my nine-year-old companion, Nancy Donaldson discovered, it isn’t always obvious, but studying each picture to find out was ‘lots of fun’. It’s also a great conversation starter, with key figures from Scotland’s past and present – from Adam Smith and David Hume to Susan Boyle and John Byrne – looming down at you and just begging to be talked about.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Sun 15 Jan.