One of the most memorable pieces on show at Amazing Amber is a beautiful piece of genuine Baltic amber containing a small, perfectly preserved fly. A fly which, in some bygone century, had made the mistake of flying too close to the sticky resin on the bark of a tree. Or so they thought for a good century and a half: in 1993, it was discovered that the fly was a fake. And as this news hit the media, audiences flocked to the cinema to watch a film depicting a bunch of scientists who use DNA extracted from amber-preserved insects to bring dinosaurs back to life. What this exhibition manages so beautifully is to demonstrate just how important amber has been not only to the (scientifically flawed) plot of Jurassic Park, but to so much of our culture.
Amber garners multifaceted interest in the world outside of the National Museum: while its glowing beauty - which is evident wherever you turn - sparks commercial interest, its preservative properties garner interest among scientists and sci-fi directors alike. One of the strengths of Amazing Amber is that with displays covering two hundred and thirty million years, the exhibition has something for everyone. While film fans gravitate towards the short film, Jurassic Park: Fact or Fiction?, those with a keener interest in history can learn about the role of amber in early medieval Scotland. Jewellery lovers, meanwhile, can test their perceptiveness at the display of (mainly polyester) fake beads.
And yet with this exhibition, I doubt interest will be so polarised as to claim its credit is in having ‘something for everyone’ - this perhaps undermines its cohesiveness. Because every inch of the exhibition is presented with such excellent attention to detail - with a perfectly judged info/display ratio - it feels more as if everything is for everyone.
As a result, you learn a lot. You learn about green Mexican amber, fluorescent blue amber, amber that looks like nothing more than a few tiny grey pebbles. There is amber to touch, amber to scrutinise under microscopes, amber references to read in excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle. Anyone out there who believed they could come and learn the secrets of dinosaur-revival might leave this exhibition disappointed in the properties of amber. For everyone else, Amazing Amber completely lives up to its title. An exhibition displaying blobs of fossilised tree resin sounds like unlikely Fringe tip-off. But an hour at Amazing Amber is as interesting and lively hour as any show out there.