A Heritage Institution Exploring Its Own Ancestry: Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Spooner, R. (2012) A Heritage Institution Exploring Its Own Ancestry: Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Sixth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark, 22-24 Apr 2013.

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Upon its completion in 1901, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum provided a permanent home for Glasgow’s growing civic collection of fine art, natural history specimens, industrial machinery and archaeological artefacts. The original displays remained largely intact for the next hundred years until a major renovation, restoration and re-hang was initiated following the museum’s centenary. The Kelvingrove New Century Project (KNCP) aimed to increase display space by 35% and the number of displayed objects by 50% in aid of attracting new visitors, particularly young people, those living in poverty and members of ethnic minority groups. This paper will examine how the Kelvingrove maintained connections to its historic past while concurrently developing strategies to bring the institution in-line with contemporary theories of display, interpretation and audience engagement. It will be argued that fostering a narrative, which linked the museum’s Victorian origins to its twenty-first century self was a central facet of the renovation project. Through consulting Scottish Executive publications and the Kelvingrove’s archives, including feasibility studies and surveys, as well as secondary literatures, this paper will critically examine this interaction between past and present. Rather than retreating from its Victorian ancestry, the Kelvingrove re-interpreted the motivations for its establishment, striving to create new and original ways to engage with its history. Consequently, the Kelvingrove is a pertinent case study to highlight when assessing the impact of the current economic climate on heritage institutions across the UK, and discussing how Scotland’s cultural sector might be affected by national independence.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:Recipient of an Emerging Scholar Award, which recognises outstanding graduate students and emerging scholars who have an active research interest in the conference themes. This conference paper was delivered during the session 'Reflections on Museum Practices'.
Keywords:Museum practice, audiences, engagement, municipal museums.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Spooner, Dr Rosie
Authors: Spooner, R.
Subjects:A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies

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