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Being transported

Pauline McLean | 14:06 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Belated new year greetings to you all. Especially those of you, who like me, spent the first week fighting the flu. Some big projects to look forward to in 2011, not least the one taking shape just a hop and a skip down-river from BBC Scotland.

The outside of the new Riverside Museum has already taken shape. And having had a little sneaky tour, I can tell you the interior is also progressing well.

The curve of the walls and the high ceilings are obvious from the exterior but the biggest surprise inside is the lime green colour scheme, perhaps over-exaggerated by the work lighting but still something of a contrast to the steely grey outside.

One of the first exhibits, a winding road alongside the curve of the entrance hall, is likely to become a firm favourite.

A selection of vehicles telling the story of the road tests carried out on the twists and turns of the Rest and Be Thankful by various car manufacturers.

Behind that, the museum's flagship exhibit - a Glasgow street at the end of the late 1890s.

Main street is based on the much loved Kelvin Street - from the old Transport Museum but its been expanded, not least by allowing visitors to step inside the shops (except the dress shop, which true to the original, remains exclusive to only a handful of wealthy Glaswegians).

Many of the shops are real businesses, reclaimed after closure.

The Rendezvous café may be familiar to anyone from the city's Duke Street area.

As well as the lighter subjects - ice-cream making and frothy coffees abound - the café deals with the very real isolation many Italian immigrants found on settling in Scotland, particularly in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The Mitre Bar has also been removed - lock stock and barrel - from its location in the Merchant City.

There's also other recognisable businesses of the era - from a cobblers, to a pawnbrokers and a photography studio.

Not to mention a saddlers - big business for the then Glasgow Corporation, which had up to 3,000 horses to care for.

Part of the reason the old museum had to close so long before this place opened, is that a subway train and station had to be installed in the foundations of the new building.

That meant curators having to dismantle the first street.

As well as Main Street, there are two more avenues which explore Glasgow's history between the 30s and the 60s and between the 1960s and the 1980s, with vehicles and shop fronts getting more and more modern the further up the street you walk.

Opinions will be divided about the "car wall" where up to 40 vehicles can be viewed from above and below.

It's an idea stolen from a 1920s car showroom - vehicles can be swapped over on hydraulic platforms - and while it will thrill many younger visitors, it's bound to dismay those who simply want to walk round an old favourite.

Pride of place goes to the South African Railways locomotive, made in Polmadie in 1945, and left to rust in a sidings in South Africa in the 1980s.

Saved from the scrap heap, and lovingly restored, it's now one of the most impressive exhibits on show.

There's still lots to negotiate - from the tender for the river crossing from neighbouring Govan, to the displays for the various "quiet spaces" around the museum, one of which will be devoted to the ongoing story of Lockerbie.

The Glenlee still has to be moved down-river to its permanent moorings outside.

But the setting is crucial to it all. Those ships in glass cases, so lost in the upstairs rooms of the old museum, make perfect sense when viewed alongside the river, which would once have resounded to the sounds of scores of shipyards.

The river is a vital part of the story of Glasgow's history.

And this museum - due to open in the spring - could prove to be a vital part of the revival of the river itself.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article,it sounds like the museum layout has been well planned out and i cant wait to visit,i'm sure it will become a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.

  • Comment number 2.

    As crispyheid said, "Good article" You have indeed painted a wonderfull portrait of what we can expect come opening day.

    Given that certainly in the early months the place shall be packed to the rafters on a daily basis,in all likelyhood spoiling what should be a contemplative meander through our transport history.

    One wonders, is it possible that some inventive soul come up with a ticketing system that would ensure the new museum is not overcrowded, therefore allowing visitors space to appreciate what from your description at least, is going to be a major boost to both the river and the City itself.

    Thanks again for the descriptive Preview kiddo

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Glasgow Life are anticipating huge demand - and i'm told they're already considering ticketing the opening few days.

  • Comment number 4.

    Cannot wait to visit the new location and see the differences from the old museum. Hopefully it will further improve the riverside in Glasgow


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