National Museums Scotland


National Museums Scotland Tour


LGBTQIA+ stories have often been kept out of mainstream history, so we are keen to make them visible. We are committed to collaborating with communities to make these histories better known and understood.

The LGBTQIA+ Hidden Histories Trail features ten objects found on Levels 1, 3 and 5 at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Scotland. Download the trail and listen to the accompanying audio for each object below.

This trail is a collaboration between young people from Impact Arts, LGBT Youth Scotland and our Scotland 365 youth engagement team with National Museums Scotland to highlight LGBTQIA+ stories across our collections.

Featured Object 4

Enigma encoding machine, 1944

Enigma encoding machine, 1944, Communicate. Decoding messages sent by German submarines from an Enigma machine made a huge contribution to the Allied Forces winning the second world war. Mathematics Cambridge graduate Alan Turing (1912– 1954) was central to this, working alongside others at Bletchley Park to build the Bombe, a machine which could decode Enigma messages. Turing earned an O.B.E for the Bombe, and was a prominent figure in computer science and the study of artificial intelligence. In 1952 Turing was accused of ‘gross indecency’ for being in a homosexual relationship, and forced to undergo chemical castration to avoid prison. In 1954, he died as a result of cyanide poisoning. Whether this was an accident or suicide is much debated. In 1967 ‘male homosexual acts’ were decriminalised, and Turing has been exonerated of his so-called ‘crime'. Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

German Kriegsmarine 'Enigma' encoding machine, Unknown Maker

Featured Object 7

Painted scroll, Japan, c.1700. Exploring East Asia.

Painted by Furuyama Moromasa, the journey through the theatre district of Edo (now Tokyo) in this 13-meter scroll includes depictions of same-sex attraction and gender diversity. Wakashu – attractive male youths who adopted female clothing and speech and were considered a third gender – can be hard to spot, but onnagata – male Kabuki actors who specialized in women’s roles and often continued these personas offstage – can be identified by the purple cap used to cover their shaved patch of hair.

Theatres of the East, painted Japanese handscroll, Furuyama Moromasa

Featured Object 1

Stained and painted glass panel showing portrait of James VI and I, 1619, Kingdom of the Scots.

King James VI and I, son of Mary Queen of Scots was famous for having a succession of male ‘favourites’ throughout his reign, a term then sometimes used to mean a romantic partner or lover.The most well-known of these was George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, who was the king’s favourite from around 1608 until James’ death in 1625. These stained-glass windows, originally located in Wroxton Abbey in England, were made to commemorate a visit to the area by the King and his ‘favourite’. Nearby you will see a silver pocket watch from around 1615. This watch was a gift given to Robert Ker, the Earl of Somerset, by King James VI/I. Robert followed James from Scotland to England in 1603 and was well known to also have been another of the king’s ‘favourites’.

Stained and painted glass panel showing portrait of James VI and I, 1619, Unknown Artist