October 12, 2017

Significant spending on Scottish museums!

The last two weeks has borne some excellent news for some ongoing museum projects in Scotland, in the form of funding announcements from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government.

First in Glasgow, a total of £20m has been pledged (£15m from the HLF, £5m from Scottish Government) towards the major and refurbishment of the Burrell Collection, almost a third of the total estimated cost. One of the UK's most important collections, the Burrell has a rich mixture of European, Chinese and Islamic artworks and objects (to name but a few areas). The proposed redevelopment intends to open up more of the building so it can show up to 90% of the collection to the public when it reopens in 2020 (prior to its closure, less than a fifth could be shown at any one time). More importantly, the refurbishment will overhaul and repair the building, keeping the west coast weather at bay.

The tapestry gallery in the Burrell Collection. Leaks and water ingress began to restrict what could be shown in the space

With the Burrell not due to reopen until 2020, selections from the collection are being shown in a rotating display at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, which will tide me over for the next few years. Also, a group of the Burrell's legendary Degas pastels has travelled to Londons National Gallery, showing a small part of the world class artworks that Glasgow's museums have to offer. I'm sure that the exhibition will inspire people to travel north when the Burrell opens its doors once again.

Edgar Degas, The Jewels, 1887

Meanwhile, over in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland has bagged just over £1.7m towards its fourth and final phase of redevelopment. This will complete the World Cultures section of the museum, by creating two new galleries for the display of the Ancient Egyptian and East Asian collections.

This will be a welcome return for these collection areas after their displacement for the new set of European galleries created in the last phase. The NMS Egyptian collection contains many significant and important objects, including the complete burial of an queen and her child. (the only intact royal burial in a museum outside Egypt). The gallery was always a hit with visitors before, and if the popularity of the recent Tomb exhibition is anything to go by, a new permanent gallery will be an instant success.

The Qurneh burial, on display in the old Egyptian gallery in 2014

I will admit to being a bit nervous about the new space for East Asian objects, having a particular soft spot for its predecessor (pictured below). It was somewhat closed off from the rest of the building though (and a little bit dark), so it will be nice to see it more integrated into the visitor journey across the museum. Not sure that the Torii will fit in the new space though..

The old East Asia gallery, before its closure in 2014

These new galleries are currently scheduled to open in 2019, so we're still a long way off from seeing the end results of this money. However, with these commitments from the HLF and Scottish Government, these visions are another step closer to reality.