The Scottish National Portrait Gallery want your children to become Portrait Detectives

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery want your children to become Portrait Detectives

Alicia Bruce

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.

Portrait Detectives!

Do the National Galleries a favour by solving some age-old mysteries from Scottish history, the answers to which are contained within some of the fascinating portraits in the gallery. Ages 4–12.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

One of the most magnificent buildings in the entire city, modelled on the Doges Palace in Venice, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has an impressive Gothic red sandstone façade designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. As well as classical subjects…

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