Kelvingrove contains one of Europe's foremost civic museum collections. © Glasgow City Council (Museums)
The voting for the 2007 Readers' Poll for the Gulbenkian Prize is now closed
24 Hour Museum continues its alphabetical roundup of the museums on this year's longlist for the Gulbenkian Prize with a look at a great museum, open again in Glasgow.
The transformation of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum into a state-of-the-art facility that showcases both the building and the collection was one of the most eagerly awaited museum projects of 2006.
It first opened to the public in 1901 when it was a major part of the Glasgow International Exhibition and its original collections came mainly from the McLellan Galleries and the City Industrial Museum, which had been opened in 1870 at the former Kelvingrove Mansion.
The building originally cost more than £250,000 to complete, using profits from the 1888 International Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park, public subscription and funding from the Town Council.
Over a century later, the New Century Project has seen a comprehensive £35m restoration and re-display of the great old civic art gallery and museum to create a universal museum for the 21st century, and to re-integrate the museum within its parkland setting.
Spitfire LA198 hangs from the roof of Kelvingrove's west court. © Glasgow City Council (Museums)
Displays have been expanded by 35 per cent and the number of objects on show has also increased by 50 per cent. This has meant a radical re-display of a massive collection regarded as one of the most important civic collections in Europe, according to a new object-based, visitor-centred philosophy, which is both narrative and multi-disciplinary.
The collection has also been simply divided between ‘Life’ on one side of the museum and ‘Expression’ on the other. The Life Galleries include human history, archaeology, anthropology, geology, palaeontology, Egyptology and natural history displays. Expression showcases the painting, sculpture, design, decorative, expressive and applied arts.
Combining curatorial knowledge, educational expertise and a series of public consultations the most interesting objects now tell their own stories in self contained displays whilst 22 easily understood themes have been developed. The idea is to build on the strengths of a collection renowned for its variety by eschewing long chronological sequences or summaries of entire disciplines.
Each of the 22 themes are arranged in their own gallery, within which there are separate story displays. Curators have worked together to intelligently tell stories using the best objects in the collection. There are now about 100 stories to be found inside Kelvingrove and in any one gallery the stories are related to the theme, but not always with each other. This allows for a change of story without having to re-display the whole gallery.
Dali's Christ Of St John Of The Cross, a Kelvingrove icon. © Glasgow City Council (Museums)
Old favourites have been retained including Salvador Dali’s legendary painting, Christ Of St John Of The Cross, and Spitfire LA198 from the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron, which is suspended from the roof of the west court.
The galleries have also been complemented with new facilities including Art, Environment and History and Technology Discovery Centres; a Study Centre; an audio-visual ‘Object Cinema’; a multi-media gallery; an Education Suite; conference room; temporary exhibition gallery and new toilets, cafes and shops.
The result is a new take on an old and popular collection housed within an iconic building that now contains even better facilities and more fascinating objects that are displayed in informative and innovative ways.
Should Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum win the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize? Go to the 24 Hour Museum's vote page to vote for Kelvingrove or any of the other longlisted venues in the 24 Hour Museum's Gulbenkian 2007 People's Vote.