The museum was originally established as the Industrial Museum of Scotland in 1854, and Fowke worked on the plans for the building from 1859-60. Also involved in the project was the then Clerk of Works for Scotland, Robert Matheson (see "Robert Matheson"). The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert in 1861, on his last such engagement — Prince Albert had, of course, been a driving force in the movement to open museums and galleries during this period. In 1866, the east wing and part of the main hall were opened to the public as the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art, and in 1904 the institution finally became known as the Royal Scottish Museum. It was Scotland's first national public building (see "Inspiring Past").
Although the building material is different, the architectural historian James Curl cites the museum along with the Fowke's Royal Albert Hall and his contributions to the Victoria and Albert Museum among other examples of the round-arched Germanic "Rundbogenstil" style: "German ideas were very much in the air through the influence of the Prince Consort and his artistic advisor, Professor Ludwig Grüner (1801-82)" (101). Locally, too, the Museum is of considerable architectural importance, "its Germanic arched Renaissance faç:ades and galleried iron hall behind" illustrating the shift towards a "sober rationalism" in mid-century architecture in Edinburgh, "allied to the possibilities of iron construction" (Glendinning and MacKechnie 163).
Curl, James Stevens. Victorian Architecture. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1990.
Glendinning, Miles and Aonghus MacKechnie. Scottish Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
"Inspiring Past" (National Museum of Scotland site). Viewed 6 February 2010.
"Robert Matheson" (Dictionary of Scottish Architects report). Viewed 6 February 2010.
Last modified 6 February 2010