28 Mar 2010

On the move with Glasgow's Museum of Transport

Just a few years after Kelvingrove Museum was completely revamped and revitalised, Glasgow’s Museum of Transport Technology is set to move to a new location in the Riverside Museum at Glasgow Harbour, overlooking the River Clyde.

Closing day is not scheduled until 18 April, but the last time I was there more than a month ago, the extensive exhibit of model ships had already been closed in preparation for the changes.
The Transportation Museum was born in the 1960s after Glasgow stopped using trams, and it has lived in Kelvin Hall (built 1927) since 1988. Despite the fact that the museum attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, Kelvin Hall no longer does the attraction justice.

The location is nearly perfect- just down and across the street from Kelvingrove, however the museum's entrance faces away from the road and in a somewhat tucked-away position that can still be easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there.
With any big change that deals with historical objects like those in the museum, including trams, old stagecoaches, bicycles, cars, and even trains, there is concern that the same spirit that honours these items will be reinvented in the new location.

There are a few aspects I hope the museum curators seek to rebuild in the new facility, the most dramatic being the charming reproduction of a typical Glasgow Street as it would have been in the late 1930s. From the moment you walk into this area, there are cobbles underfoot, welcoming you to another era. There are shops like the fishmonger and the pharmacy, then the sound of classic cartoons coming from the cinema, and the sight of a milk truck parked at the side, as if the driver had just ducked out to make a delivery. There is even an underground train station platform. The whole scene is an exercise in frozen theatrics and I just adore it.
A few of my other favourite exhibits include the collection of trams from different years, a brightly coloured van that I should very much love to drive, and of course the most gorgeous thing of all: the cherry red gypsy caravan, with all of its detail and adornments.

For Harry Potter fans, the museum also features a car like the one owned by Mr. Weasley. If you look closely, you will see that Hedwig has snuck into the back seat and looks somewhat annoyed that Harry is taking so long.
Farewell celebrations start at the museum on 2 April and end 18 April, when the doors will be shut and the real restoration and moving work begins. The all new and improved Glasgow Museum of Transport Technology is scheduled to open in the spring of 2011.

As they say at the museum, all aboard!

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