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Discovering Decorative Arts at the National Museums of Scotland

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 25th April 2024 (Code AA187-302) Thursdays from
25th April 2024 11:00am - 1:00pm • (10 classes)
National Museum of Scotland • Tutor: Karen A Clulow BA MA FSA Scot
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This vibrant course will introduce the magnificent decorative arts collections within the National Museum of Scotland. We will explore the historical developments of decorative arts and how they have influenced modern methods and techniques used to create many beautiful objects on display in the museum.

Please note, this course takes place at the National Museum of Scotland (meet at the Information Desk in the entrance hall). 

Course Details

Content of Course

This programme may be subject to change due to changes in display and/or items being on loan or in conservation.

1. Sources, ideas and inspiration.

2. Materials such as clay, and its journey from practical rudimentary objects to high end porcelain and ceramics.

3. Glass and its development and uses in decoration through history.

4. Metal work.

5. Furniture through the ages and across the world.

6. Scottish decorative arts.

7. Belief systems, from birth to death around the globe.

8. Studio work, Industry and trade.

9. Decorative arts from all corners of the world.

10. Status symbols to easily attainable and affordable objects for the home.

Teaching method(s)

Will be gallery based, using the vast collections of the National Museum of Scotland. A comprehensive reading list will be given at the start of the course and handouts will be given throughout. Time will also be allowed for Q&A and group discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand how culture is influenced by the cultural and historical developments in the decorative arts;

  • Engage with and interpret the decorative arts collections in the National Museum of Scotland.


Core Readings

  • Sheridan, A., 2000. Heaven and Hell and other Worlds of Death. Edinburgh: NMS Publishing.

  • Cumming, E. and Kaplan, W., 1991. The Arts and Crafts Movement. London: Thames and Hudson.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

At the beginning of the course students will receive a comprehensive reading list. Also throughout the course handouts will be given covering periods, styles and techniques involved in the making of decorative arts.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.