Monday 20 June 2011

Return to Kelvingrove, anxious anticipation for Riverside

It is 7 weeks since I last visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and blogged my thoughts here on how disappointed I was with the way it appeared a bit shabby and poorly maintained so soon after a major refurbishment. Glasgow has decided that "culture" can be a resource for the future of the city, generating visitors and income lost with the decline of heavy industry. To this end, alongside the established museums, the new transport museum is about to open in Zaha Hadid's impressive Riverside Museum, part of a "plan" to make something of the Clyde, the neglected heart of the city. I hope it works, but the Clydeside area around it has already been described, accurately I think, in one review as "like an underplanned business estate".

The fear I have is that the council are trying to do it on the cheap, cutting too many corners, building and renovating nice spaces then standing back whilst they decay. Closing attractions on Mondays is just one symptom of this. Look at all the buckets that still stand embarrassingly in the Burrell Museum to collect the rainwater that comes in any time there is inclement weather in Glasgow (it has apparently been noted to rain occaisionally in this dear green place), or the cracked display cases inside and taped off area of the new steps outside the People's Palace, crumbling and unsafe (and unrepaired). After my last visit to the Arty Gartys I tried to think back to walking around some of the big European or London museums I've been to and could not remember seeing "out of order" signs everywhere, broken interactive displays, torn notices and knackered children's interactive exhibits. Well, if that is what you like, Kelvingrove seems to be the place for you to visit Mr Potential Tourist.

So good luck to the Riverside Museum, I'm truly excited about taking my children to see it. But if it is full of interactive computer screens and the hands-on displays that modern museums need, these things need to be looked after, money spent maintaining them and staff employed to supervise their use. Everybody would agree that these places are worth building and enrich the city, but they should not be allowed to crumble, decay and close like the shipyards before them that suffered badly from years of underinvestment whilst the rest of the world sailed past us.

 So have all the broken things I came across last time been fixed? Have any of them?

29th April "This interactive will be fixed by the end of April"
29th April "irreparably broken and will be removed by end June"
April 29th "will be repaired by 1st June"
So seven weeks on, what progress has been made?

20th June, end of April long gone - not fixed, but the sign removed
20th June, still "will be repaired by 1st June"
Wow, that'll be impressive.
20th June, time running out, but plan still to remove it by end June
That is pretty poor I think you'd have to agree. Even when aware of what work needs done, it does not seem to be performed. As before 3 out of the 6 PCs upstairs were broken with "we are working on correcting the problem" labels on them. There are plenty more examples..., no I can't.
...but I'm depressing myself now. One good point was that on the exhibition on Egyptian funerary canopic jars, an organ has appeared. Last time there was only 1 of the 4 organs, now there are 2, so that's good for kids to play with. Proof of an afterlife?
Does the apparent lack of infrastructure maintenance also extend to the work of a museum in conserving the collection? I don't know, but upon reading the notices today it does appear that work does seem to drag on. There is still the sign where the peacock with an "infestation" was removed from display in March 2009. Also a painting, The Tower of Brass by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, removed from the wall for "conservation work" in 10.1.2008 is still missing. The Buka War painting has a tag marking its space on the wall as it is apparently out on loan to St Andrews until October 2010. 

Glasgow Life? Write your own punchline.