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Kelvingrove to Tell Glasgow's Story - 1,000s of new visitors expected

26/03/2014

Ahead of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has undertaken an ambitious complete redisplay of the Glasgow Stories Gallery.  It shares the story of Glasgow from the 12th Century to present day post-industrial Glasgow.  The displays will give an overview of the history of Glasgow to local people and also to the thousands of tourists expected to make their first visit to Kelvingrove this summer.  It considers how Glasgow has come to be a city of national and international significance.

In the post-industrial era Glasgow has become a place famous for culture, home to numerous world-renowned artists and performers.  As well as undergoing huge physical changes, the city has developed a strong cultural identity and a world-wide reputation for people, places and events.  It is that reputation which has enabled the city to host the XX Commonwealth Games this summer. 

Glasgow is a dynamic city, evidenced through the depth and diversity of its museum collection, considered to be one of the finest in Europe.  The redisplayed Glasgow Stories Gallery also gives an insight into the growth of the city’s collection, which reflects the history of the city, its expansion, industrial development and cultural aspiration.

Key objects on display include a ticket from the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park, the proceeds of which contributed to the building of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  These sit alongside other hugely evocative items such as Patrick Downie’s watercolours of Victorian street scenes or tiny delicate fossil sponges side by side with a vast section of Douglas Fir.

These are complimented by modern day objects from a spoon, significant for its use at political demonstrations, to a branded anorak from the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, and a jacket made by textile designer Jilli Blackwood, who went on to design the Glasgow cast costumes for the Delhi Flag Handover at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, during which it was acknowledged that ‘Glasgow Stole the Show’*. She has since been commissioned to design the Scotland team uniforms for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “The 2014 Commonwealth Games is an outstanding opportunity for Glasgow to shine, this summer we will be in the spotlight across the world like never before.  As has often been said the Games is about more than 11 days of sport.  We want to share our incredible city with the Commonwealth and that includes Glasgow’s impressive cultural offering.

“The Glasgow Stories Gallery shares the story of the city.  It charts how key events in the city’s past have brought us to the privileged position of welcoming the world to Glasgow to enjoy the Commonwealth Games.

“Moreover it enables Glaswegians to share some of the pride and passion they feel about the city’s cultural legacy, which is best reflected in our museum collection.  Glasgow boasts ten civic museums, showcasing a collection often said to be amongst the finest in Europe.  A wander round the gallery shows how that collection came into being and where people can discover more across the city.  It is a most enlightening journey.” 

Cheryl Maclachlan, who was part of the Delhi 2010 Closing Ceremony handover team, joined Glasgow Museums’ Research Manager for history, Helen Watkins, to show off some of these items at the opening of the redisplayed Glasgow Stories Gallery.  Cheryl added: “It was an amazing experience to go to Delhi and represent my city on a global stage.  I am so proud to be Glaswegian.  It has been wonderful to walk round the gallery and understand a little more about why Glasgow is such a significant city in Scotland and on a more international scale.  I want to share all the wonderful things about my city with those coming to Glasgow for the first time this summer and this redisplay provides a wonderful starting point.”

This is the most ambitious redisplay of any gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum since it reopened in 2006.  It explores the city’s journey through five key time periods.  It begins in the 12th Century when Glasgow Cathedral was the focal point of the growing burgh.  Although the Cathedral and its surrounding area are no longer physically at the heart of the city this is where Glasgow’s medieval origins lie.  The story then moves on to Georgian Glasgow and the 18th Century, charting a period in which the city grew significantly in size, stature and international influence.

Through objects and text visitors to the gallery see that during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) Glasgow was a growing, vibrant and dynamic city, but also a city of contrasts.  Its great wealth and confidence was evident in the impressive civic buildings rising from the ground, but the poverty and deprivation suffered by many is clear for all to see.

By 1888 Glasgow was known as the ‘Workshop of the Empire’ due to the scale of industrial manufacturing in the city.  The city had access to a plentiful supply of labour as well as raw materials and capital and its products were exported all over the world.  With the rapid industrialisation came the rise of trade unions and their attempts to improve working conditions.  

With the decline in heavy industry Glasgow took a brave decision to change its reputation and fortune by making sport and culture a key focus for the city.  In the post-industrial era Glasgow held high aspirations to become a city of culture.  It’s been 21 years since Glasgow became the first UK city to be named European City of Culture. Since then, the city has invested more than £500 million in its sports and cultural infrastructure, becoming a creative powerhouse second only to London in attracting overseas leisure tourists.

The Glasgow Stories Gallery will display over 100 objects both 2D and 3D, spanning the entire range of Glasgow Museums’ collections, from art to natural sciences, history and technology.  Well over half of these will be on display for the first time.  It is located in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and is accessible from the Centre Hall, the West Court and the Ancient Egypt gallery.  For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com​

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