Virtual Historic Site Impressions: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

December 16, 2021

Thank you to all of those who responded to the poll I released a few weeks ago. The site with the most votes was the Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland. I plan to write about the other sites in the future and I released another poll to ask all of you which one you want to read about next. In the meantime, I will share with you all my experience visiting this Scottish castle.

    Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe and was used as a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and a fortress. Parts of it remain in military use while the rest of it is now a popular world-wide visitor attraction.

    When I made a virtual visit to the Edinburgh Castle, I was surprised to discover that it was more than one large castle; there were also a chapel, a whiskey shop, tea rooms, et. cetera.  Before I even entered the castle, I was already impressed with the architecture and the details that were on and inside. I decided to do a general walk around the castle with no specific plan and share some of the highlights from my visit.

         I made my virtual walk around the area and noticed a small chapel known as St. Margaret’s Chapel. St. Margaret Chapel was named for Queen Margaret who was later made a saint. When Queen Margaret died in 1093, the chapel was built in her honor by her son, King David I. It is Edinburgh’s oldest building. St Margaret’s Chapel still hosts weddings and christenings today. Close to the chapel is the Portcullis Gate.

St. Margaret’s Chapel (oldest building in the castle)

     Portcullis Gate was built almost 450 years ago in the wake of the devastating Lang Siege that took place in 1571 when supporters of Queen Mary held the castle against the rule of the regent the Earl of Lennox (who supported the then infant King James VI). The Gate was erected by the Regent Morton in 1574.  The building contains a long-vaulted trance, once furnished with two outer double doors, a portcullis and an inner double door that once sat alongside the iron gate to ward off intruders. The top floor, Argyle Tower, was added in the 1880s.

Portcullis Gate

        During my visit, I came across The Redcoat Café which offers a variety of things to eat and drink including but not limited to soups, roasts, toasted deli sandwiches, beer, wine, spirits, hot beverages, and soft drinks. I also went by the Tea Rooms located at the top of the castle in the Crown Square; they offer traditional afternoon tea as well as light lunch (soup, salad, sandwiches), cakes, hot cocoa, coffee, spirits, wine, beer, and ale. Next to St. Margaret’s Chapel is the Whisky Shop where visitors can purchase whisky that was created in collaboration with the award-winning Edinburgh Gin distillery. They have a huge range of whiskies including their exclusive Edinburgh Castle 10-year-old single malt, and sweet and savory treats including traditional shortbread, whisky fudge, and cakes.  In addition to exploring the castle on my own, I also visited Edinburgh Castle’s website to learn more about it.

The Redcoat Café

        Edinburgh Castle was built upon a rock for a military strategic advantage during the Iron Age, and their defenses evolved over hundreds of years. For instance, Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made, was given to King James II in 1457. The Half Moon Battery, which was built in the aftermath of the Lang Siege of 1573, was armed for 200 years by bronze guns known as the Seven Sisters. Six more guns defend the Argyle Battery, with its open outlook to the north.

          In addition to serving as a military fort, Edinburgh Castle was also a royal residence. The Great Hall, that was completed in 1511 for King James IV, hosted grand banquets and state events. But the king had little time to enjoy his new addition. James IV died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, fighting English forces sent by his brother-in-law, King Henry VIII of England. According to their website, they pointed out that above the door to the Royal Palace are the gilded initials MAH – for Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Mary gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566 who would become king of Scotland at 13 months old and united the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603. After the ‘Union of the Crowns’ of 1603, Edinburgh Castle was rarely visited by the reigning monarch, but from the 1650s it grew into a significant military base. Defenses were rebuilt and enhanced in response to the Jacobite Risings of 1689–1746. New gun batteries such as Dury’s Battery were constructed and new barracks such as the Queen Anne Building were added to house the many soldiers and officers. To learn more about Edinburgh Castle, I included a list of resources below.            

       Their website includes a number of resources to help people plan their visit, COVID restrictions, the history of the castle, et. cetera. I appreciate that they have a list of suggested itineraries based on interest and the amount of time one has to visit Edinburgh Castle. I would like to someday visit the castle in person as well, and in the meantime, I will make numerous virtual trips to keep exploring the many places within the castle.

The second poll to choose the next historic site is active. To decide which historic site you want to learn more about, click on the link here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1xi

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts.  More information about additional benefits for supporting my work can be found here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Edinburgh Castle website: https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/

Edinburgh Castle Virtual Tour with Us blog post: https://blog.edinburghcastle.scot/virtual-tour-with-us/

Virtual Edinburgh Castle: https://www.google.com/maps/@55.9485358,-3.1984482,3a,75y,272.57h,110.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sK8bujNmtCtGOcDq8H1KZng!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

https://canmore.org.uk/site/52093/edinburgh-castle-portcullis-gate-and-argyle-tower

http://www.edinburgh-history.co.uk/lang-siege.html

Poll: What is the Second Historic Site You Would Like to Read About?

December 9, 2021

In the first poll, the one with the most votes was Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. My experience with the virtual visit will come out next week so stay tuned. In the meantime, please choose the next historic site you would want to learn more about.

Virtual Museum Impressions: Salvador Dali’s Dali Theatre Museum

June 10, 2021

Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.

I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Main Entrance

One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!

Fan Collage in the Dali Theatre-Museum

         As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.

Courtyard
Rainy Taxi

Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.

What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb.  While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.

Salvador Dali’s Labyrinth and his tomb

        The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mae West Room
Mae West Face

One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.

Babaouo

        I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts.  More information about additional benefits for supporting my work can be found here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Dali Museums

Virtual Dali Theatre-Museum

Rainy Taxi Installation Story

The exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains

Dali Theatre Museum: Destino