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Death toll from tsunami in Southeast Asia increases

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Death toll from tsunami in Southeast Asia increases
 Correction — May 8, 2018 This headline incorrectly locates the tsunami in Southeast Asia; it was in the South Pacific, as stated in the lede. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A tsunami that was generated in the South Pacific by a powerful undersea earthquake has killed at least 110 people, according to authorities.

The majority of the fatalities occurred in Samoa, where rescue workers say at least 84 people were killed. Another 24 people are confirmed dead on American Samoa, while at least seven fatalities have been reported in nearby Tonga.

The US Geological Survey says an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck early Tuesday local time. It generated waves that devastated coastal areas, knocked down buildings and sent cars floating out to sea.

Strong aftershocks followed the initial earthquake, with at least one measuring a magnitude 5.6. Tsunami alerts were issued for the entire South Pacific region but were later canceled. Survivors fled to high ground and stayed there for hours.

Several villages were destroyed on the southern Samoan coast of Upolu, which is also home to many tourist resorts.

During a flight on from Auckland, New Zealand to Apia, Samoa, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told reporters he was shocked by the disaster. “So much has gone. So many people are gone. I’m so shocked, so saddened by all the loss.”

“The situation is very bad,” said Marie-Francoise Borel, a spokesperson for the International Red Cross, to the CTV News Channel by telephone. “This massive wave has swept across – it’s destroyed villages, it’s destroyed homes, people are in shock.”

The assistant chief executive of Samoa’s disaster management predicted that the death toll in the country could surpass one hundred, saying that searches for bodies in the region are still ongoing.

“They are still continuing the searches for any missing bodies in the area. Some areas have been flattened and the tsunami had brought a lot of sand onshore, so there have been reports the sand has covered some of the bodies. So we need specialised machines to search for bodies that are buried under the sand,” he said.

The communications head for the International Federation of the Red Cross, Jason Smith, told the Al Jazeera news agency that the Red Cross “[…] is working hard through five evacuation centres to provide people with safe places to stay and access to clean water,” estimating that up to 15,000 people in sixty villages were affected by the tsunami.

At the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, the tsunami measured 1.57 meters in height. The superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa Mike Reynolds reported four waves as high as six meters. People who experienced the quake said it was long, lasting from 90 seconds to three minutes.

We’re focused on bringing in the assistance for people that have been injured, and for the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of survivors down there.

Pago Pago city streets were strewn with overturned vehicles, cars, and debris. Some buildings located only slightly above sea level were completely destroyed by the waves, and power in some locations is not expected to be restored for up to a month. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said that “we’re focused on bringing in the assistance for people that have been injured, and for the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of survivors down there.”

“The first federal team members are currently en route to American Samoa aboard a Coast Guard plane and will be providing on the ground assessments once they arrive on the island,” Fugate said. “FEMA, who has provisions pre-positioned in a distribution center in Hawaii, is also preparing to send supplies as needed to help meet the immediate needs of the survivors.”

Didi Afuafi, 28, who was riding on a bus in American Samoa when the tsunami struck, described her experiences. “I was scared. I was shocked. All the people on the bus were screaming, crying and trying to call their homes. We couldn’t get on cell phones. The phones just died on us. It was just crazy,” she said. “This is going to be talked about for generations.”

US President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in American Samoa, and has sent federal aid to support local recovery efforts in the US territory.

“My deepest sympathies are with the families who lost loved ones and many people who have been affected by the earthquake and the tsunami,” Obama said. He had earlier pledged in a written statement to give a “swift and aggressive” government response to the disaster.

“I am closely monitoring these tragic events, and have declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which will provide the tools necessary for a full, swift and aggressive response,” Obama said.

During a Wednesday appearance near Washington, D.C., the president said the US was ready to help its “friends” in neighboring Samoa and throughout the region.

In Tonga, seven people were confirmed dead and another three missing, after waves struck Niuatoputapu, a northern island.Acting prime minister Lord Tuita said in a statement that “according to information gathered from Niuatoputapu so far, seven people are confirmed dead, three missing and four with very serious injuries,” Lord Tuita, the acting prime minister, said in a statement. “It is reported that the tsunami did serious damage to the village of Hihifo, which is like the capital of the island.

“The hospital on the island is reported to have suffered major damage; telephone communication has been cut as a result of damage to equipment and facilities on the island; homes and government buildings have been destroyed,” he said.

An airplane was reportedly chartered by Tongan authorities to determine the amount of damage done to Niuatoputapu, but wasn’t able to land.

Mumbai officials demolish 39K shanties; 200K homeless

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Mumbai officials demolish 39K shanties; 200K homeless

December 25, 2004

Officials in Mumbai, India, demolished over 6,000 shanties today in a push to eradicate the capital city’s slums. In total, 39,000 shanties have been flattened, displacing over 200,000 people, in the city’s biggest-ever demolition drive, which began in early December.

When complete, over 2 million people are expected to be displaced. After wiping out the least desirable shanties, next in line for demolition are the illegal ‘well-off’ shanties and neighborhoods, according to the legal and bureaucratic motions that have been executed toward cleaning up Mumbai’s appearance by lowering the dominance of shanties, which make up 62 percent of Mumbai’s housing.

“As far as eye can see, there are mounds of wood, tin and tarpaulin, the remains of 6,200 illegal homes, flattened by a heavy excavator running on tank-like tracks and giant motorised claws,” the Indian Express reported about today’s destruction. [1]

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said that citizens would see a change within six months. “Every chief minister likes to be remembered, and I’m no exception,” said Deshmukh, who despite having an empty exchequer, also announced that Rs 31,000 crore will be spent on new roads, sea links and rail lines. [2]

Google launches Google Spreadsheets

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Google launches Google Spreadsheets

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Google has launched an online spreadsheet site, in a private beta.

The site will allow spreadsheets to be shared between up to 10 users, which is aimed to be useful to teams and small businesses. “Many people already organise information into spreadsheets. Where they are struggling is to share it” said the product manager, Jonathan Rochelle.

Google recently bought the online word-processor Writely, launched a calendar product, as well as a desktop search tool. Many see this as them straying into Microsoft‘s markets.

Google Spreadsheets uses very advanced AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And Xml) and Client Side Scripting to mimic very effectively it’s desktop counterparts’ functions.

It is surprisingly fast, has very good formatting and advanced formula support, but best of all it has complete support for Microsoft Excel .xls files, and very good collaboration: just enter the e-mail address and you can share easily.

New species of dart frog discovered in Colombia

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New species of dart frog discovered in Colombia

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Scientists have discovered a new species of venomous dart frog in Colombia.

The new species, dubbed the ‘golden frog of Supatá‘, is 2cm (0.8 inch) long and has a range of just 50 acres (20 hectares), which is believed to be the reason why the frog remained undiscovered until now.

The frog was found in February during an expedition arranged by the Conservation Leadership Program (CLP), a nonprofit organization, but the discovery has only just been announced.

However, according to Giovanni Chaves, a biologist from the CLP, the frog is in imminent danger. “This frog exists in a little fragment of cloud forest that is under intense anthropogenic pressure, mainly the destruction of the forest for cattle-raising and agriculture,” he said.

“This discovery allows us to know a little more about the ecology of these beautiful animals, and it will also allow us to use it as a symbol to carry out campaigns of environmental education in this area, to show the need to protect and to conserve the fauna and flora of this region of Colombia.”

Colombia has one of the richest diversities of amphibians in the world, with more than 583 known species.

Charles Lazarus, founder of US-based toy retail giant Toys ‘R’ Us, dies at 94

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Charles Lazarus, founder of US-based toy retail giant Toys ‘R’ Us, dies at 94

Saturday, March 24, 2018

On Thursday, Charles Lazarus, the founder of United States toy retailer Toys “R” Us, died in Manhattan, New York, New York of respiratory failure. He was 94. His death came a week after Toys “R” Us announced that all of the stores were closing.

Toys “R” Us issued a statement in which they said, “There have been many sad moments for Toys “R” Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus. He visited us in New Jersey just last year and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”

Michael Goldstein, who was a close friend and former Toys “R” Us chairman, said: “He was the father of the toy business. He knew the toys and loved the toys and loved the kids who would shop in the stores. His face lit up when he watched kids playing with toys.” In a phone interview Goldstein said that Charles Lazarus died in Manhattan.

Lazarus no longer held a stake in the chain, CNN reported. Lazarus took over his father’s bicycle repair shop in 1948 at the age of 25 and changed it to baby furniture. He opened the first Toys “R” Us store in 1957. Lazarus had remained its CEO until 1994.

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, July 2008

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Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, July 2008
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Saturday, August 9, 2008

July 2008 on the campaign trail will be remembered prominently for what people close to the campaign opined about the election. On both sides of the aisle a former presidential candidate made a statement demonized by the media. The media’s coverage of the election was scrutinized by the media itself and became an issue that even the candidates discussed on the trail. The trends of the previous months were continued as another third party candidate rose and another influential election journalist (Tony Snow) died.

Democrats
  • Barack Obama’s shift to the political center in light of his liberal backing was documented by the media. It was noted that Obama had stated that he agreed with Republicans in backing a bill granting immunity to telecommunication businesses that participated in surveillance of terrorists and recognized that he agreed with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision split upon ideological lines to lift the hand gun ban in Washington D.C. The move was also supported by Obama’s remarks that he would “refine” his positions on the war in Iraq.
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson stated in an interview during a commercial break that he believed Barack Obama was “talking down to black people” and that he would like to “cut his nuts out.” The comments were in response to Barack Obama’s comments that “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father.” Jackson apologized to Obama and the campaign’s spokesman stated that Obama “of course accepts Reverend Jackson’s apology.”
  • New Yorker magazine set off a firestorm of controversy when it released its July 21 edition with a cover portraying Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as Islamic extremists. The publication claimed the cover was a satirical representation of rumors floating that Obama is secretly Muslim but both the Obama and McCain campaigns criticized the cover as “tasteless and offensive.”
  • Obama visited the Middle East and Europe later in the month on a Senatorial “fact finding” mission with fellow Senators Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed. Obama met with world leaders and discussed the American strategy in Iraq with General David Petraeus and drew large crowds including 200,000 at an event in Berlin. During the trip Obama articulated his support for an increase in the American forces in Afghanistan. The trip received an abundance of media coverage and was followed by anchors from America’s top news networks.
  • Virginia governor Tim Kaine emerged as the frontrunner for the Vice-presidential nomination for the Democratic Party according to sources within the Obama campaign. The source stated that Kaine “ranks very, very high on the shortlist” along with Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Third Parties
  • Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia won the nomination of the Green Party at the party’s convention in Chicago. After winning the nomination McKinney proclaimed that “A vote for the Green Party is a vote for the movement that will turn this country right-side-up again.” She is a vocal critic of the Bush administration suggesting that it covered up information regarding the 9/11 attacks. McKinney selected hip hop artist and Green activist Rosa Clemente as her running mate.
  • Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr reached 10% in a Zogby poll conducted in New Hampshire in July although Barr had not yet reached the number of signatures required to be included on the ballot in the state. Barr emphasized the promising results while campaigning and stated that he will continue his fight to be included on the ballot in all 50 states.
  • Comments made by Bob Barr that the government “has to do something” to help Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in light of the 2008 GSE support plan were instantly criticized by presidential candidate Charles Jay of the little known Boston Tea Party. Jay gained some media attention by claiming that Barr was wrong describing him as a “dixiecrat” and stating that the government should “let free markets flow.” Jay’s comments are representative of some Libertarian dissatisfaction with Barr, which fractured the Convention in May.
Republicans
  • Similar to the previous summer, John McCain reshuffled his campaign staff: the biggest move being his replacement of campaign manager Rick Davis with Karl Rove’s associate Steve Schmidt as the controller of campaign operations. The moves gave indications of a possible upheaval in the campaign but these charges were denied by advisor Carly Fiorina who stated that McCain was simply “ramping up” his campaign. It was also revealed that McCain planned to release a series of advertisements aimed at voters in the midwest.
  • Economic advisor for John McCain, former Senator Phil Gramm stated that America was a nation of “whiners” who are in a state of “mental recession.” McCain countered that he “strongly disagree[d]” with the statements and that “Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me.” After months of being touted as a possible Treasury Secretary in a McCain administration, when asked what role Gramm might play in light of his recent comments McCain remarked that he “would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I’m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that.”
  • John McCain criticized Barack Obama for his position on Iraq as the Democratic candidate visited the nation. He stated that Obama was wrong for formulating a plan for the future of the nation before assessing the conditions on the ground. In an interview with Katie Couric, McCain stated that he “would much rather lose a campaign than lose a war. Senator Obama has indicated that by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge [in Iraq], that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.”
  • Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal announced on Fox News that he’s “got the job [he] want[s]” and that he’s “not going to be the vice presidential nominee” although insiders stated that Jindal would take the job if asked. This came as McCain praised Jindal and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty as “the future of the Republican Party.” The two along with Florida governor Charlie Crist and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are said to be the top prospects to be McCain’s running mate.
  • McCain released an ad late in July that gave his campaign more media exposure. The ad described Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” and compared the Senator to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It was later reported that at the end of the month McCain was a “significant or dominant factor” in 74% of campaign coverage compared to 81% for Obama, perhaps as a result of the new ad.

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What Makes Cashew Nuts So Special?}

Submitted by: Shivani Bharadwaj

The well known kidney shaped nut, cashew has earned its reputation as a healthy snack and incorporated in many food dishes especially Asian cuisine and salads. It is popular in chocolates where it is missed with other dried fruits or solo in the chocolate bar. Cashew nuts have a nutty creamy flavor and by adding it to your diet you can lower your cholesterol. Some reasons why cashew nuts are so popular are listed below:

Cashew nut benefits- Cashew nuts are beneficial to your health and help:

Reduce heart related diseases and keep a healthy heart as cashew nuts have low fat content compared to other nuts in the oleic acid form which is known to be good for the heart.

Lowers high blood pressure as it contains magnesium.

Maintain your hair as copper is the mineral which helps give your hair color and since cashew nuts are rich in copper, it helps you get healthy hair.

Give you healthy bones because it has magnesium which is vital for healthy bones and good bone structure.

With good nerves since it is packed with magnesium which is present in the bones surface, it stops calcium from getting into the nerve cells and keeps the blood vessels and muscles relaxed.

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Prevent gallstones by consuming it on a daily basis, thus lowering chances of getting gallstones.

Reduce weight as it is made up of good cholesterol even though it contains fats. Eating it a few times a week, in moderation can help you shed some weight.

Act as an anti-oxidant for various enzymes.

With digestion as cashew nuts improve growth and development also nucleic acid.

By supplying vitamin like riboflavin, thiamin and many others which prevent diseases such as pellagra and anemia.

Giving you healthy teeth and gums because it contains as mentioned before plenty of magnesium which is great for you gums and bones.

Prevent cancer as cashew nuts are rich copper and also contain a class of flavonols called proanthocyanidins which fight against tumor cells and stops it from diving further.

Types of cashew nuts- Cashew nuts are classified according to their grades such as:

White wholes

Scorched wholes

Dessert wholes

Brokens

It comes in two forms mostly:

1. Raw cashew nuts or organic cashew nuts- which are in its natural form.

2. Roasted cashew nuts- which have been lightly toasted to a specific temperature, thus giving it a light golden brown color and crunchy texture. They are also salted.

Cashew nut nutrition:

Cashew nuts can be effortlessly added to your diet and to meals such as in vegetable stir-fry or chopped into pieces and spread over a fresh salad. You can now find cashew nuts in nutrition bars and also many edible chocolate products.

Now you know how cashew nuts are good for you and also what makes it stand out amongst other types of edible nuts. So dont hesitate to eat it and enjoy every crunch.To know more informations you can visit JoybyNature.

About the Author: To find more variety of nuts and similar food products, you can visit JoybyNature.Website:

joybynature.com

Source:

isnare.com

Permanent Link:

isnare.com/?aid=1951309&ca=Food+and+Drinks}

Dungog, Australia residents celebrate continued protection of local forest

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Dungog, Australia residents celebrate continued protection of local forest
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Local residents of Dungog, a small country town in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, held a celebratory nature walk on Sunday after they received assurance that their local forest was deemed worthy of “enduring protection.” Previously, a proposal before the NSW government to log over one million hectares of protected national park forests had caused alarm among nature conservationists.

To celebrate the continued protection of national parks in NSW, a free guided walk was held on Sunday in the Black Bulga Range Conservation Area. This family-friendly nature ramble meandered along the mountain’s ridge, with locals enjoying the forest, sharing a cup of billy tea and knowledge about the local forest’s ecology and history. The physical presence of the locals in the forest demonstrated their continued use of this area and the importance of national parks for the community.

Since early 2012, the possibility of logging for commercial timber in NSW national parks had been emerging. A state government inquiry on the management of public land in NSW received submissions and evidence from both the Australian and NSW Forest Products Associations (FPA). The FPA’s recommendation to “tenure swap” between national parks and state forests in order to sustain the timber industry were included in the final governmental report.

The process began in April 2012 when the NSW Legislative Council —the upper house of the parliament of NSW— established an inquiry into the management of public land in New South Wales, conducted by the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5. According to a media release from the Legislative Council at the time, the primary purpose of the inquiry was to “scrutinise the management of the State’s public land and review the process and impact of converting Crown Land, State Forests or agricultural land into National Park estate.”

By August that year, the committee had received a recommendation from Mr. Grant Johnson of the Australian Forests Products Association for the “re-introduction of harvesting activities in forest areas previously set aside for conservation.” The following month, Mr. Johnson and Mr Russell Alan Ainley, Executive Director, NSW Forest Products Association, were invited before the committee. At this hearing, the chair, Mr. R. L. Brown, member for the Shooters and Fishers Party, asked Mr. Ainley for “a calculation of the area currently in [national parks] reserve that would need to be returned [to state forest] to be available for timber extraction”. In response, Mr. Ainley suggested “a little more than one million hectares.”

On May 15, the NSW Legislative Council published a Final Report on the management of public land in New South Wales. Among its key recommendations was that “the NSW Government immediately identify appropriate reserved areas for release to meet the levels of wood supply needed to sustain the timber industry, and that the NSW Government take priority action to release these areas, if necessary by a ‘tenure swap’ between national park estate and State forests. In particular, urgent action is required for the timber industry in the Pilliga region.”

A “tenure swap” would reserve areas of NSW state forest where logging is now allowed, in exchange for opening areas of national parks for logging.

Environment groups such as The Nature Conservation Council of NSW and The Wilderness Society announced that these government documents signaled an immediate threat of logging in national parks in NSW. This information raised concerns of other community and activist groups because logging is not conducted in national parks in Australia. According to the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, a national park is an area designated to “protect Australia’s plants, animals, ecosystems, unique geology and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural connections to the land.”

The Black Bulga State Conservation Area was one of many parks listed by the environment group Save Your National Parks as potentially vulnerable for “tenure swap”. This forest covers 1554 hectares and connects Dungog Shire to the World Heritage listed Barrington Tops National Park, part of a green corridor from the ocean to the mountains.

Residents living near the forest were concerned by the proposal for logging in their area. A local information day held in June, at the Settlers Arms, Dungog, motivated local action. As a consequence of the event, over forty hand-written letters were posted to the Premier and local MPs. In a recent reply from the NSW government, the Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, stated: “The Government does not support commercial logging in national parks and reserves, including Black Bulga State Conservation Area, and has no plans to allow it. The NSW Government recognises that our national parks and reserves are special and unique places that deserve enduring protection. The Government is committed to their important role in conserving native flora and fauna and cultural heritage, and to improving community well-being through increased opportunities for recreation and tourism”.

As reported in the Dungog Chronicle, Jo New of the Black Bulga Range Action Group was thrilled by the government’s response to a community-driven campaign. “It goes to show what a wonderful impact local people can have after they do something simple, like posting a letter”.

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National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

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National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

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Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

Have you any photos of the museum, or its exhibits?

The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh’s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University’s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

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Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny‘ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

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The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

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At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

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