{Scotland} The Wardlaw Museum with Kids

Happy Museum Monday! We have another museum from St Andrews to share with you today. After we recently travelled to Andrews to visit the World of Golf Museum, we had some time before catching the train back home, so we popped in the the Wardlaw Museum – formerly known as MUSA (Museum of the University of St Andrews). I used to go there once a year to lecture the museum studies students, and wanted to see what had changed since their revamp.

Wardlaw Museum St Andrews
Wardlaw Museum St Andrews

The museum is divided in to four thematic galleries. The first gallery is about the history of St Andrews University itself, including the sense of community and aspects of student life, as well as historic objects. The boys weren’t that interested in this part of the museum, though they did like the robes and costumes on display.

Wardlaw Museum St Andrews

The other three galleries cover different subject areas that are researched and taught at the university, including art, science and history, and were a lot more interesting to the boys. It was a little like a ‘museum of everything’ but in miniature. Objects on display include scientific instruments and specimens, paintings and artwork, and beautiful antique globes. I thought we’d have just a quick walk through, but we spent almost an hour there.

Wardlaw Museum St Andrews

There were quite a few interactive activities too, which prolonged our visit. For example, alongside an exhibit about a pattern matching test, you could have a go yourself with a replica and race against the clock. Whilst a display about optical illusions had a ‘Taxiphote’ (a kind of 3D viewer) next to it which you could look through.

Other activities included rocks and minerals you could touch, lenses with filters to explore, an activity for comparing different kinds of bulbs, an audio station about resonator frequencies, and a portrait that you could view in 3D via mirrors.

Wardlaw Museum St Andrews

Another exhibit about the Incan tradition of keeping records through knotted string devices called ‘khipus’ had a replica that you could touch alongside an original artefact, that you could.

The highlight for the boys, however, were the adventure backpacks that you can borrow for free from the front desk. There are three different bags to choose from – an Artist Bag, a Scientist Bag, and an Explorer Bag. My 8 year old little science fan went straight for the Scientist Bag of course. As we were watching the clock to catch our train back home, we said he could choose one of the activities to do and he chose a biology activity. This involved wearing a felt apron, and attaching all the organs of the body (also felt, with velcro backing) in the right order. The clever thing about this, was that there were no instructions! You had to carefully study the scientific drawings of the human body that were on display in the gallery.

We didn’t expect to spend to much time in this museum, and we’ve had to promise to come back another time to do the rest of the backpack activities. So if you’ve come across the Wardlaw Museum and thought it’s just a museum about the university that your kids wouldn’t be very interested in, think again! They also have a programme of free family events, including regular ‘Wee Wardlaws’ story and song sessions for under 5s, monthly family activity sessions, workshops during school holidays, and other things, so make sure to check out the events calendar on their website.

Oh, and don’t forget to pop up to the top floor terrace, for the beautiful sea views!

Wardlaw Museum St Andrews Terrace

How to get there

Location: 7 The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AR

There’s no train station in St Andrews itself, but it’s only a short bus ride from Leuchars. The museum is a 5 minute walk from Butts Wynd bus stop (bus 92) or a 10 minute walk from the Bus Station (bus 99).

Visitor Information

Opening hours: Open Mondays to Fridays 11am to 7pm, and 10am to 5pm at the weekend.

Cost: Admission is free.

Website: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/museums/visit-us/wardlaw

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