Mane attraction: Art prize judges unveil ancient lion’s skull

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THE JUDGES of the UK’s biggest arts prize unveiled the National Museum of Scotland’s latest acquisition today– the skull of an extinct American lion.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, scientist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, journalist Charlotte Higgins and architect Rick Mather came to look around the Museum, which is one of ten UK museums longlisted for the prestigious Art Fund Prize.

Lord Smith of Finsbury and the museum's Dr Gordon Rintoul were among the first to get their paws on casts of American lion and Amur tiger skulls

The 11,000-year-old skull, from one of the biggest cats ever known, will go on display next to the new natural world galleries exhibit.

They were given a tour of the Museum and had the chance to explore the new galleries, seeing objects such as the T.Rex, the Polynesian feast bowl and the Millennium Clock.

Professor Tom Devine, Senior Research Professor in History, Edinburgh University, is supporting the Museum’s bid to win.

He said: “The National Museum of Scotland is a superb destination for all who want to appreciate the multifaceted story of Scotland – from its dramatic history to the entrepeneurs, scientists and explorers who made their mark around the world.

“The architectural spaces provide a welcoming, accessible, and beautiful setting for a rich variety of objects, which promote a wider understanding of Scotland’s international links and strong record of collecting across the globe.

“The overwhelming enthusiasm shown by visitors is well deserved, and I am delighted its transformation has been nominated for The Art Fund Prize.”

The National Museum of Scotland reopened in July 2011 following a £47 million transformation, with over 16 new galleries from the natural world to science and technology, from world cultures to art and design and Scottish history from earliest origins to present day.

Since opening, the Museum has welcomed over 1.85m visitors, with the blockbuster exhibition Fascinating Mummies and exciting events such as RBS Museum Lates and the Edinburgh Science Festival ensuring that visitor numbers remain high.”

Next week will be the National Museum of Scotland’s Spotlight Week, when the Museum works to raise awareness of its nomination. Supporters are encouraged to have their say at www.artfundprize.org.uk, with the chance to win an iPad.

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