The scale of the refurbishment programme at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was brought home to us last week, when Alan Horn, Director of the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal, invited Jim and I on a tour of the building.
Refurbishment began in July, 2003 and some six months down the road work is progressing well and everyone involved with the project is delighted that no unforseen problems have emerged as the building is updated, repaired, renovated and cleaned up. One hundred and forty workmen - craftsmen covering a wide assortment of trades - are on site. Stonemasons, electricians, builders and carpenters are working in harmony to improve and restore, in all its glory, this 'astonishingly well built' building, much loved by Glaswegians and a major tourist attraction.
Suitably clad in green 'wellies' and hard hats we entered through the new 'front door', to be immediately confronted by intense activity. At this level extensive construction work is being carried out with major renovations taking place and some areas being claimed for use for the first time. The kitchen area is being created in a space hitherto undeveloped and next to this a restaurant will be created in a bright area - initially earmarked as a sculpture classroom. (When first created Kelvingrove was expected to house Glasgow's Art School).
The restaurant will look out over the River Kelvin towards the towers of Glasgow University and the fine architecture of the Park area. On the ground floor there will also be a reception area, a shop, cloakroom and lecture rooms. This huge space has never before been open to the public.
Moving up to the more familiar upper floors, the atmosphere is quite different and it is calm; construction here has been more about preservation, protection and careful cleaning. The large items that could not be removed have been carefully boxed in - Roger the elephant and the five-tonne Pabasa sarcophagus are concealed in situe. Every stairway has been covered and latex coatings have painstakingly been applied to stonework - acting like a poultice to draw out the dirt. Problems with downpipes, condensation and the heating system are all being tackled.
Although there is a great deal going on this is not your typical building site - it is tidy and organised and there is no raucous music or calling out. You gain the impression that refurbishment at Kelvingrove is being conducted with concentration and dignity, in recognition of the importance of this project at one of Glasgow's most magnificient and historic buildings.
Alan Horn is a mine of interesting information and we enjoyed wandered through endless rooms looking at small details, seeing new spaces and learning about their future purpose. Not only will the refurbishment allow works of fine art, and artefacts, not previously shown, to be displayed but also internationally important collections will now be exhibited in the city. An important deal has been struck by Mark O'Neill, Head of Glasgow Museums, with Dr Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, who has agreed to Egyptian treasures from the British Museum coming to Kelvingrove. Dr MacGregor has long been an admirer of Kelvingrove and visited the Art Gallery and Museum often when he lived in Glasgow as a boy. He is enthusiastic about bringing the wealth of the collections at the British Museum to the whole country. (The Herald, 9.03.2004).
Photograph of The Kelvin Hall from the roof of Kelvingrove.
When refurbishment is complete a permanent ancient Egyptian Gallery will be situated on the first floor overlooking Dumbarton Road.
One of the most exciting moments of our tour was when Alan took us up onto the roof at Kelvingrove. It was awesome to be on top of this magnificient building, looking over the city of Glasgow on a beautiful spring day whilst beside us numerous workmen were busily renewing glass and Victorian leadwork over the main halls. The contrast between the areas completed and those still to be tackled was striking and it is easy to see just where money is being spent.
With the project well on target and a positive response to fundraising appeals things are looking good at Kelvingrove. Ambitious projects are being planned and the building prepared to support these. There will be many new amenties, a significant increase in display space with many more items on show and 21st century facilities capable of housing internationally important exhibitions.
The refurbishment programme is designed to retain everything that is wonderful about Kelvingrove and ensure its preservation for future generations of Glaswegians.
Interested in giving a donation to the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal - please visit the page at 'Building an exciting future on a proud past'.
Everyone who donates receives a personal thank you letter and a recognition certificate signed by Lord Macfarlane as Chairman of the Appeal.
Alan Horn, Head of Development for Cultural Leisure Services can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 00 44 141 565 4135
Fax: 00 44 141 565 4111