Artist Ken Currie was commissioned to create a series of eight paintings for the domed ceiling on the top floor of the museum to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Calton Weavers Massacre of 1787. The project was funded by the Tommy Chambers bequest.
This event was a catalyst for the creation of the trade union movement. Ken Currie’s panels are a striking visual representation of the political history of Glasgow's workers from that point to 1987.
The first panel depicts the aftermath of the Calton Weavers protest, when local military fired on a demonstration of striking weavers. The last shows a group of people studying objects in the People’s Palace in 1987, learning about political reform and worker’s rights.
Displayed underneath these were several banners. These hugely significant and symbolic banners portray the history of working-class struggle in the city, regarded as the birthplace of trade unionism in Scotland. These works explore the growth of Scottish trade unions from many different areas of work, the legacy of Red Clydeside and suffragette history.
These objects have been on display for more than 20 years. At present they are off display and are being safely cleaned by Glasgow Museums conservators.
Ken Currie recently visited Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where the work is being carried out, to inspect and talk about his works in the collection.
Ken Currie said:
I had to paint these works in a very, very bold way as they were going to be displayed high up and had to speak to people from a distance, so they had to be graphically bold. But there are all these secret details that can only be seen by standing in front of them, so many details you can only see when you are close up.
It’s great they will be re-photographed in higher resolution to let people see all the detail. The tattoos, the split in that man’s shoe, the DM on the Doc Martens, it’s great. And it’s great they are being conserved for generations to come.
Glasgow Museums has a collection of approximately 3,000 objects related to Glasgow Trade Unionism, which date from late 18th to early 21st centuries. It contains banners, badges, certificates, ceramics and glassware, posters, leaflets, membership cards, paintings, drawings, and photographs.
To find out more about our collections, visit http://collections.glasgowmuseums.com/