Friday 29 April 2011

First Impressions of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum?

I live in Glasgow and a trip to the Arty Garties (or Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to give it its Sunday name) has always been a weekend regular for Glaswegians, young and old. 6 years ago it was re-opened after three years of extensive refurbishment, with much fanfare and anticipation. Like many locals I contributed to the refurbishment fund, proud to see my name up on the wall in the main hall.

On visiting it after re-opening I had bits which I liked, bits I found odd, bits that I missed from before, but it is clear that refurbishment was overdue. However, in the past I had been in and out the Art Galleries often, alone or with my children, with the new improved version I didn't have that same draw to keep returning. There can be few tourists who visit Glasgow and don't drag themselves along to the Art Galleries to look around. So visiting there today I tried to visualise it through their eyes, imagining that I was a tourist with a couple of children in tow (that part I didn't have to imagine). Would I be entertained, enlightened, impressed or - heaven forbid - disappointed?

This is important as museums in Glasgow previously run by the council are now run by Glasgow Life, an operating name of Culture and Sport Glasgow whose stated aims include a plan...

  • to enhance and promote the City’s local, national and international image, identity and infrastructure
    This same mob will be the same ones running the new Riverside / Transport Museum when it opens in June. Again it looks lovely so far, and the plan is to allow visitors to be more interactive with the exhibits and "dedicated IT stations will enable visitors to share their thoughts on the Museum to show what subjects and themes are preferred to be displayed in the future."

  • All very laudable, but once these museums are opened, they need to stay open (eg not closed on Mondays, or opening as late as 11am as the gaggle of foreign tourists and me found today outside Kelvingrove as we clutched the locked bars begging to be let in). Once inside you expect the "dedicated IT stations" to work, the exhibits and hands-on bits to entertain children to work. Otherwise you leave a disappointed tourist thinking that this city doesn't care about art, museums, history, looking after young visitors, etc. That is what I would think as a visitor to Kelvingrove today, and it makes me fear for the future of the Riverside Museum once it opens the doors to let us in.

    In the last four weeks I've been to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton, Tate Liverpool, The Merseyside Maritime Museum, The International Slavery Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery  and Hill House in Helensburgh. In not ONE of these places can I remember seeing broken displays, closed rooms for staffing problems out of order computers and interactive exhibits. If they can do it, why can't we! Here are some tourist snaps I took today...

    Several touchscreen exhibits were out of order
    Half the PCs or "dedicated IT stations" were out of order
    Peacock removed because of "infestation" 2 years ago! Time to just destroy the bird and take the label away now?
    Lots of hands-on stations like this had ALL the bits missing
    Broken camera, will be fixed by...tomorrow. Not
    Kids can try to make this chair, with 2 missing pieces and tatty seat.
    Another broken machine
    Most of the bits missing on this Egyptian exhibition
    Flooring taped up rather than repaired in numerous places
    Several flaps children are to lift up are missing, this one shows a bent and torn picture underneath
    I don't think this was ever working for long, finally getting the chuck rather than repaired/ maintained
    More broken computers
    Flooring like this in several places 6 years after refurbishment.