Some fossils from the Age of Chalk

3 years ago, first day I got my digital camera, I went to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on the day before it closed for refurbishment and photographed everything I liked that I thought might change. It's such a big part of living in Glasgow - this really grand building with all this amazing stuff, that's so labyrinthine you get lost straight away. I felt quite nervous about going back this week to see what's changed.

At first it's hard to tell because it's so busy. I worried that it was going to be all shiny and interactive, and it's not. It's more shiny and interactive than it was - they've taken a lot of things out of cases (more things to tell your kids not to touch) and the Tyrannosaurus Rex that I used to be so scared of is gone for being "anatomically incorrect". At least there are no annoying audio guides and the building is as grand as ever. It's arranged by theme now (rather than art upstairs, natural history downstairs) - Life in one wing and Expression in the other. Not convinced about that. And there's something really handwringy about Glasgow Stories which starts with the Old Firm and sectarianism, then moves on to Violence Against Women and Lunatic Asylums. Really cheery, and not representative of any Glasgow I know.

This is Scotland

All in all it left me a bit troubled. I don't know how much this is about the art galleries and how much is about me. It reminds me of working in libraries a few years ago, when there were all these people coming in from industry with no respect for libraries or librarians and they decided libraries had to be called "learning centres" or "ideas factories" or something. It was horrible. And of course, because it was librarians no one wanted to cause a fuss, and instead of fighting for everything libraries stood for everyone rolled over (including the Library Association) and changed their name as well, so to this day some people don't have a clue what their job title is. (Information Assistant anyone?) So this feels the same, like someone has said museums can't be museum-y any more, when that's what's so great about them. Things in glass cases, EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS, those little machines with the graphs on them.

And the way I feel about the Art Galleries is the way I feel about a lot of things at the moment. In the past few months, having a baby and everything, I feel like everything's going a bit too fast. I want to press Pause. And I want things to stop changing, just for a minute, because a lot of the time they don't need to. Progress is fine, but somewhere along the line we've all lost it and ended up striving for things that really aren't important. Change for change's sake. I don't know if that's a bit harsh but all I could think was that I liked things fine the way they were.

cheer up.

I'm only 17 and I'm nostalgic for when i was eight, the spice girls were in, and everything was all perfect. Or the year when Glasgow was city of architecture and there were millions of arty events on. Or in primary 7 when we went on an art trip to the Museum and I drew an axe that was behind a glass case.

everything changes...for better or worse. we've just got to keep moving forward.

Hi Alex. I know, you're right. Thank you.

Anne, I totally agree. My home town had the first Carnegie library, and a very fine one it was too. It's not exaggerating to say that for a lot of local people it was their 'university', which is of course Andrew Carneigie's intention. It was a place of hushed learning until recently when the internet was installed and is now called something crass like an 'Ideas Resource' with about 50% less books than it used to have. There are gaps in what used to be the non-fiction section where you could have a decent kickabout. And don't even get me started on the mania for button-pressing 'interactivity' that's spread of through the countries museums. I used to love visiting the Science Museum, but it's become a bit of a dumbed-down chore. I hope I don't sound like a fogey – as kids we loved to be taken to museums and not patronised by over-simplified and in-yer-face exhibits.

Thanks Gareth - well said. You don't sound like a fogey and I hope I don't either. I just meant that some things might not be fashionable but it doesn't mean they're not good. Like the few classic cafes that are left. They've been slated for years and now people appreciate the fact that they haven't changed. So sometimes it's good to stand your ground.

I think what you have just expressed is why I thought of you and your young family when I saw my son Graduate recently Anne..I desperately wondered who had pressed fast forward..I still look for the pause button sometimes but just remember now to breathe and 'dont sweat the small stuff' as my husband says....your photos and words are a great way of keeping your finger on the pulse of the past......go kiss your boys now!

I went into public libraries fresh-faced and full of passion, and six months later was trying to get out because I was basically an underpaid teacher/social worker expected to solve the local community's problems. I love everything that public libraries stand for but I think they need to go 'back to basics'.

I still work in information, for a charity, and I'm much happier. The only thing I miss are storytime and holiday activity sessions, the more traditional side of being a librarian.

Looking forward to seeing the new Kelvingrove, especially those heads. Not sure I like the sound of the Glasgow stories section though, we'll see.

Hi Katherine - let me know what you think. Maybe I'm being too harsh on it.

Hi Anne,

If you ever do find that pause button, please, please, do let me know. I think it would be a lucky find that really ought be shared.

Three cheers for libraries and science museums of old, hooray!

see you, gracia

Spot on re:libraries.

Our Central library in Birmingham has been pencilled in for a move to the "learning quarter" of the city for some time. Not surprisingly this quarter is well out of the City centre where land is cheap. The current location is a desirable spot for office building. What a surprise.

The other thing that sends me occasionally over the edge is the need to make too many things in museums "interactive". Sometimes its better just to look and mull things over, possibly go back to a display if you want to. Not press some button, gawp for 3 seconds then move on because it's taking too long to "interact" with you.

Blimey - that was quite a moan! I feel better now though.

Great blog by the way! The link to Terence Nunn is really appreciated.

I love the old pictures of Kelvingrove, I miss the bees.
I've yet to see the new refurb. I know what you mean about the categories, its far easier to like natural history, war stuff, or art rather than er..this group of things which are all spiky.

I'm still looking forward to it though.

Hello Wilbur. I know... the bees. I thought they must have gone but didn't want to check. I love the way they were so difficult to find, up those wee stairs. I don't mean to moan about it though. It's great to have them open again, whatever they've done inside.

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