ONE of the best known museums in Scotland, the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, is to lose its regal name after it was decided its lofty title confuses and deters potential visitors.

National Museums Scotland has ditched the name of the 150-year-old building as part of wider marketing makeover, which also includes a new logo - a stylised saltire created from question and exclamation marks - and new identities for other museums in its portfolio.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the newly-named National Museums Scotland, sought permission from the Queen for the removal of the royal tag from the museum, which gained its name in 1904, 45 years after Prince Albert laid its foundation stone.

From today, the Royal Museum will become one entity with the neighbouring Museum of Scotland to become the National Museum of Scotland.

Dr Rintoul said the name change was a strategic, marketing and practical move, rather than one with hints of republicanism.

"We contacted Buckingham Palace and explained our reasons for the change, and there was not a problem, " Dr Rintoul said.

"The Queen herself saw the proposal and she was said to be very interested, it wasn't just rubber stamped, she looked at our plans and thought about them in depth."

Catherine Holden, director of marketing and development at the NMS, said that consultations with staff, visitors and non-visitors discovered great confusion over the status of the museums on Edinburgh's Chambers Street.

She said potential tourists often did not realise the Royal Museum was part of the NMS, thought it was a museum dedicated to royalty, that it was owned by the Crown, or was just misnamed as the Chambers Street Museum. Also the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has pledged GBP15.8m towards the redevelopment of the building, said the Royal Museum and the National Museum of Scotland needed a more "cohesive" identity.

Dr Rintoul said the loss of the Royal name did not affect the status or attraction of the building.

"Iam not sure people are fond of the actual name, but they are fond of visiting it, " he said.

"It is not as if we are destroying the museum, in fact we are enhancing and developing it, maintaining and improving it for the future."

The Royal Museum building has a long and venerable history, going back to 1854 when the Industrial Museum of Scotland was founded, which was renamed as the Museum of Science and Art in 1864, becoming the Royal Scottish Museum in 1904.

Construction of the building as it now stands began in 1861, with Prince Albert laying the foundation stone.

The Royal Museum is to undergo a GBP44m redevelopment in the coming years, beginning in 2008 and to be finished by 2011.

The building, with its distinctive glass roof and spectacular main hall, is a much loved museum but is currently rundown - its displays are dated and water leaks through the roof at the rear of the building.

When the work is complete the building will display twice the number of objects, and contain 16 new galleries.

In1985, seven museums, including the Royal Scottish Museum, came under the auspices of the National Museums of Scotland, and the Chambers Street building was renamed The Royal Museum of Scotland.

The new rebranding, which cost "less than GBP100,000", of the National Museums Scotland came after the museum decided to revamp its image and respond to competitors, including, according to Ms Holden, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Science Centre in Glasgow.

The new corporate logo replaces the six separate museum logos and the Museum of Country Life has become the National Museum of Rural Life, the Shambellie House Museum of Costume the National Museum of Costume and the Granton Centre the National Museums Collection Centre.

The changes come accompanied with more content on the NMS website, including educational packages and "virtual museum" content.

Ms Holden added: "Our visitors and the public have told us the current brand and names are confusing and that there is low awareness of the family of sites.

"We've listened to them with the changes announced - the brand reflects our wish to engage a wide audience, to encourage them to visit all of our museums and to have a memorable and enjoyable experience."