There is something very alluring about the top floor of a museum. Away from the hubbub of ground floor activity, the top floors seem a haven of quiet and thinking, a slightly magical place where you can't be sure the exhibits aren't moving about when you're not looking. Perhaps don't think about that too much.

Of course, this majestic quiet will not apply to the new galleries on the top floor of the National Museum of Scotland, whose 15 year, £80 million redevelopment concludes with the opening of three new galleries this weekend, the last downstairs by the balcony cafe covering the Art of Ceramics, a broad view of ceramics in global cultures from the 19th century BC to the 21st century AD. With the new Ancient Egyptian gallery installed in the gods, a sure fire crowd-puller even before you factor in the fizzing international set-to about the provenance of its most controversial – at least in this moment – exhibit, a coping stone from the Great Pyramid at Giza, which goes on display here for the first time since its acquisition (through all the appropriate channels, and with all the appropriate documentation, the Museum are keen to point out) in 1872.

In any case, if this particular part of the top floor was quiet before, that is down solely to the fact that it was an old storage area, stuffed full of items which were usually, I am told, on their way somewhere else. Now gainfully re-employed with the applied arts and artefacts of South East Asia in one room and 4.000 years of Ancient Egyptian history in the other, glass vitrines dot the floor space and line the walls, chock-full of ancient pieces from Samurai armour, newly restored and on display for the first time, to a full ancient Egyptian royal burial.

If the Ancient Egyptian gallery is a chronological whirl of four millenia of evolving peoples, the South East Asia galleries are organised chronologically, the great inspiration that Korean and Japanese arts took from China evident in the superb array of ceramic, metal and textile goods, from the everyday to the high end, as well as innovations of their own making.

If the various interactive consoles contain interesting additional information, it is the artefacts themselves that stagger, for whilst the figures tell of the £3.5million refurbishment costs for these last three galleries, they don't tell of the thousands of hours of curatorial work in conceiving and researching the displays, the time spent rummaging in archives of acid-free paper and temperature controlled vaults, of the painstaking conservation work on items such as a woven sock, some thousands of years old, from Ancient Egypt. The vitrines, though, do, and the wealth of what is on display speaks for itself, from the first ancient Chinese coins shaped like spades to the wonderful wooden models of a boat and its crew, of butchers and bakers at work, buried with high class Egyptians c.2000BC to ensure a comfortable existence in the afterlife.

Dr Rosina Buckland, Senior Curator responsible for the Japan collections and overall curator for the South East Asia room, tells me that the grouping of all three countries together, in a display highlighting their cross border cultural links is “unique, as far as we know.” In theory, they know what is in storage by its label, but sometimes what turns up is in fact not what they were expecting. Dr Buckland tells me that she had a few 'eureka' moments, re-discovering pieces which had been obscurely labelled decades previously.

Sometimes, too, the treasures were hiding in full view. Dr Qin Cao, Curator of the China collection, tells me that the superbly detailed blue and red “Phoenix Crown” or fengguan which has caught my eye used to be on display in the “Inspired by Nature” gallery, labelled as a theatrical headpiece for the Beijing Opera. But when she started work at the museum, she found that an inscription on the top of the piece which indicated that this was the court headresss of a noble lady, the kingfisher feathers which cover the metal frame indicating her esteemed rank.

The Ancient Egyptian Gallery is likewise a superb thing, the chronology that skirts round the walls fleshed out in thousands of year groupings, throwing light on an ever-changing culture from the truly Ancient to the Alexandrine period, to the Romans, a history that was not just about royal burials – although in the 1570 BC “Qurna Queen” burial, the NMS has the only full royal burial outside Egypt – but about domestic life, farming, temple ritual. The NMS may not have large scale statues from Egypt, unlike the British Museum, say, but it has the intimate story, here, in items for everyday use in fishing or the home, or a neatly packaged mummified baby crocodile, a newly told story of life lived, made from these newly displayed gleanings of the archaeological past.

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 0300 123 6789,, Daily 10am – 5pm.

Don't miss

Visual Arts Scotland's annual open is a must-see, mixing as it does the media of fine art with those of applied. At the heart, geographically, is Craft Scotland's focus on wood, with the magnificent central hall of the RSA given over, at floor level, to treatments of wood that range from ceramicist Charlotte Barker's beautifully crafted benches (based on 17th century pig benches) to Naomi Mcintosh's Hirta installation - a walk-in, adaptable show-space. Elsewhere there is much to admire on the walls, from painting to printmaking, sculpture to artists' books, made by artists from both within and without the VAS fold.

Alight: Visual Arts Scotland, Open Exhibition, Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh,www.visualartsscotland.orgUntil 22 Feb, Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm, Free, but donations very welcome.

Critic's Choice

Last chance to catch Lorna Macintyre's pared-back, thoughtful work in Gallery 2 of Dundee Contemporary Arts. Macintyre's work takes poetry, literature or archaeological artefacts as inspiration in her exploration of the potential of material.

This exhibition, her first solo exhibition in a major UK instition, finds its origins in a tile from Carpow Roman Fort near Abernethy, housed in the nearby McManus Galleries. The small terracotta tile bears the imprint of a dog's paw, an animal which walked over it some 2,000 years ago as the clay was drying. It is a fleeting moment captured in a material that has lasted – and will last – for many millennia.

Macintyre, who studied Environmental Art at undergraduate and MFA level at Glasgow School of Art, is fascinated by processes that capture Time, and the juxtaposition between something enduring and of the moment, a combination of materiality and Time. It is, she says, an inherent part of the nature of photography, a core medium in her work.

That "interconnectedness" also seeps over into materials, exploring what is in the frame and what is outside it, or using the by-product of one artistic process to produce another. Below the silk-printed photography on the wall, the cyanotypes, the digital prints, are a series of ceramic vessels – teapots, pots and so on – on the floor, on to which she has grown crystals that result from the chemicals used in the production of the cyanotypes, showing the different atmospheric conditions in her studio at any given point in a year. In the summer, the crystals grown are rangey and spikey, in the winter, bluer, smaller. A moment, a condition, captured – although not, here, forever.

Lorna Macintyre: Pieces of You Are Here, Gallery 2, DCA, 152 Nethergate, Dundee, 01382 432 444,, Until 24 Feb, Daily 10am – 6pm (8pm Thurs)