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Scottish exhibition welcomes millionth visitor - in China

17 May 2014

A major exhibition that tells the story of how Edinburgh and Nanjing (a former capital of China) have developed over the centuries, has welcomed its millionth visitor.

That’s more than twice the visitor numbers enjoyed by major international, block buster exhibitions such as Pompeii at the British Museum.

Opened last November in Nanjing, A Tale of Two Cities exhibition, with its selection of Ming, Qing and Republic objects from the collection of Nanjing Museum will be shown in Edinburgh (dates and venue to be confirmed).

The exhibition’s run in China was due to finish last week but has now been extended, due to its popularity and the fact that the State Administration on Cultural Heritage in China has selected Nanjing Museum, and specifically this exhibition, to be the focus for International Museum Day for the whole of China, on 18 May 2014.

The exhibition appears to confirm a growing interest by Chinese audiences in Scotland and Scottish heritage.

Chinese visitors to Historic Scotland properties increased by 33 percent last year to 121, 779 and now account for 3 percent of all visitors to the attractions. The most popular Historic Scotland property with Chinese visitors is Edinburgh Castle with more than 102,000 experiencing the site last year.

Speaking before leaving for a celebration of International Museum Day in Nanjing, Rebecca Bailey, Head of Education and Outreach at RCAHMS and Co-Curator of the exhibition said:

“Five months into the exhibition run, A Tale of Two Cities has welcomed over 1m visitors, well beyond our wildest hopes in terms of audience reach.

“To put that into perspective, our most substantial exhibitions attract a Scottish audience in the region 7,000 a month; a figure that is often exceeded in a single day in Nanjing.

“What was particularly striking, in addition to the huge numbers flocking through the doors, was the depth of their interest in, and engagement with, the material on show. It’s been wonderful to see the intense interest shown by Chinese visitors as they pore over the cases and exhibits.”

“Throughout the museum, during the opening days, the one word that the Scottish team could understand amid the Mandarin was ‘Edinburgh’ – it seemed everyone was talking about the city!

“It’s been a privilege to be one of the first organisations in the world to collaborate with a Chinese museum on a project such as this one and we hope it will signal the start of more cultural engagement between Scotland and China in years to come.

“There’s clearly a huge interest in and appetite for Scotland and all things Scottish among Chinese people, and A Tale of Two Cities has given us a great opportunity to share skills and knowledge in exhibition curation and interpretation with our counterparts in China.”

The aim of the project was to develop a pioneering co-curation arrangement - only the second known to have been attempted between a Chinese Museum and an institution from outside China - that showcased RCAHMS’ collections as well as loans from the National Galleries of Scotland and Glasgow Museums, allowing these to be shared directly with a Chinese audience for the first time.

The project was also designed to support the Scottish Government’s Memorandum of Understanding on culture with China and to showcase the architectural heritage of the city of Edinburgh to a very substantial and rapidly-growing tourist market.

About the exhibition

Using archival material, artworks and interactive digital content, A Tale of Two Cities is a partnership between the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), Nanjing Museum and Nomad Exhibitions.

The exhibition tells the story of how the cities of Edinburgh and Nanjing (a former capital of China) have developed over the centuries, investigating the similarities and celebrating the differences. It:

  • Explores and compares the architectural and urban development of the two great cities, both of which have areas designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  • Takes visitors on a journey through the architectural and urban history of both cities and provide a fascinating insight into how they were founded and expanded.

  • Provides insights to the domestic, industrial, educational and cultural lives of each city over the centuries.

For further information please contact Giselle Dye at Pagoda PR on 0131 556 0770 or email

Notes to Editors:

  • RCAHMS is the National Collection of materials on Scotland’s built environment that connects people to places across time. It is the first port of call for information about the built environment of Scotland, from prehistory to the present and records the changing landscape of Scotland and collects materials relating to it.

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government. Its statutory function is to protect and promote the historic environment, helping to ensure that the historic environment delivers economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for Scotland. Historic Scotland cares for 345 historic properties and sites.

  • RCAMHS and Historic Scotland have worked closely together for many years and will be merged into a single new, Non-Departmental Public Body that will seek charitable status. The merger will enable the new body to provide more effective and efficient support for the historic environment of Scotland, investigating, recording, caring for, protecting and celebrating it. The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland can be found here Further information on the Strategy and the Bill can be found here The new body will be established in two stages, with the inauguration of the body corporate and the Board appointed in April 2015 and the transfer of operational powers to the new body in October 2015.

  • Nanjing Museum is one of the largest and best established museums in China with some 400,000 original artefacts in its collection, 2,000 of which are designated as national treasures.

  • Nomad Exhibitions are innovative creators and producers of international museum-quality touring exhibitions and display environments. Based in Scotland, Nomad Exhibitions create, design and produce high profile permanent, temporary and touring exhibitions for museums and cultural venues worldwide.

  • A four year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Culture between Scotland and China was signed on December 5, 2011 in Beijing by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and China’s Minister of Culture, Mr Cai Wu. The MOU covers 4 key areas: cultural collaboration; best practice and talent development; educational outreach; and, networking opportunities.

For further information

Giselle Dye
0131 556 0770