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The good, the bad and the Weeg—Museum of Transport

During the weekend we ventured out to explore Glasgow’s new Museum of Transport. Before writing about the museum, I thought I show you some pictures of the riverside redevelopment. We were positively surprised about the new cycle paths and the nice pedestrian cum cyclist bridge. The city scrubbed and cleaned her riverside, not ashamedly hiding it away anymore behind construction fences.

New Housing Development along the Clyde
Downstream View, BAE System (left)

Seaplane on its way

The Tall Ship now anchored in front of the Museum of Transport

The Museum of Transport

What to say about the new museum? Architecturally it is really interesting the effects of light, the views onto the river you can catch from almost everywhere within the museum are beautiful. So are the light effects and design features inside the building. However, the building does not fit the exhibition. On entering the museum you find yourself in a recreated Edwardian (?) street scene. Buildings were created that indeed existed in Glasgow and there are shops which display original fittings and objects. A minor setback was that some of the displays missed the corresponding numbers next to the objects so one had to guess where the descriptions fitted.

As soon as leaving the street scene however, we stumbled into an exhibition hall that lacked any form of coherence. The story of the exhibition was lost on us, despite reading the floor-plan. The floor plan did not reflect that there were more shops and stores displays, and although there was a supposed chronological line in the exhibition, this timeline was broken right on entering the hall. The first exhibition we saw was a wall of motorcycles of all ages, and above our heads floated a circular construction holding bicycles over the ages.

This bike I found somewhere else randomly displayed.

The problem with the main exhibition hall was that it lacked interpretation and there was no storyline no coherence in the assorted objects. We found out that it was supposed to be sorted into different decades, so we saw trams and cars across the time, though randomly in the middle of the old trams there was a rowboat. We failed to find out what that was about.

One aspect that annoyed me most was that a loot of the objects I was most interested in were inaccessible for the visitor. Take this car, I had a total thing for the Lipton tea car, but there was no way to actually take a proper photo. You can see the bike behind the car? This is where the visitors are walking past, and because they printed this bike on the glass protection front you cannot take a picture of the car. So I had to crane my neck and stretch and bend around other objects to get at least this blurry shot. Also there was no information (at least none that I could find) about the car.

I can understand the protective glass-wall, what I cannot understand is the bike printed on it and these massive walls onto which cars are mounted. There was one of these cars I always wanted to know more about (If you ever watched The Importance of Being Earnest with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O’Connor and Reese Witherspoon you will know what car I am talking about. The cute tuck tuck car she Gwendolyn drives after getting the tattoo)—but the car was mounted 6 meters (or so) high on a wall. Too far away without a super-zoom objective used for wildlife photography or paparazzi. There was no way I could have a look at it—what is the point of a museum when you have no access to the exhibition pieces?

There were more issues we had with the interpretation—I am not going to bore you with more details. The bottom line is I had the feeling that the architect and the curators did not communicate a clear vision to one another. We absolutely LOVED the Edwardian (?) street scene, being able to go into all the shops, seeing the old underground trains and getting a feeling for a time where cars began to replace horse and carriage. Yet, this all fell down on entering the main exhibition hall.

We would have loved to see a whole museum in this form of recreation of Glasgow, but the rest of the exhibition is more like a halfhearted attempt there are some more shops or shop-windows but the story trickles out and becomes lost. We like the way the Kelingrove Museum makes use of interpretation, bringing technique, natural and social history together, establishing the links between those. In the Museum of Transport however, once abandoning the coherence of the street scene, they tried to set up a similar way of interpretation yet fail to actually applying it.

We decided that we will go again during a time when there are not so many people in the museum and see if we can understand the story better.

Venturing outside we enjoyed a closer look at the Tall Ship, the views and the newly installed ferry. The museum, redevelopment and ferry, definitely livens the riverfront and we were delighted to see so many people making use of the ferry, cycle and pedestrian walks. It definitely is a worthwhile day out.

It wouldn’t be Glasgow though, if everything would be clean and sorted, she still needs to occasionally wash behind her ears.

Last but not least not wanting to leave you on a bad notion the Weeg in her glory.

Categories: Teaching

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Nathalie Sheridan

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