Monday, 2 July 2012


This guffer's experience of taking kids anywhere is a lottery. Will they behave, groan at being bored, fall asleep upon arrival, be a joy for one and all..the list could go on for a long, long time. A recent break provided an ideal opportunity for a 'Daddy Day', a rare treat for me and my eldest to escape the tantrums of the two year old and for my wife to escape from all of us. A trip to the flicks, lunch (why are they called happy meals?), a spot of shopping for toys and then a trip to a museum. It was a pretty packed day that ended during the last opening hours of the Riverside Museum: Scotland's Museum of Transport and Travel on the banks of the Clyde.

For those of us that remember the old Transport Museum at Kelvinbridge, the Riverside may come across initially as disappointment. For example, the wow factor of the Clyde room and the journey through that inspiring experience has been lost. 

The old Clyde Room - a place to lose hours and gain an even greater respect for the Clyde workforce
The unrestricted access to all manners of exhibits and the smell of machinery has also been sanitised. There was a wholesome and honest feel about the old venue. OK, it looked a bit shabby, but you could get up an personal with the exhibits. A classic case of substance over style and a memorable relationship between exhibit, artifact and visitor.

One of my passions is capturing those unexpected and lovingly considered manufactured details. I sometimes have an image of an apprentice - the design/engineering workshop 'lad' being given a task that they set upon with the all the love and conviction of a new parent. Details like the handlebar mounts on an Ariel Square four or the grab handle on an Argyll (above) come to mind and are thankfully still viewable, and if you are on the look out for a moment with out a security guard being present - stroke able! This is where my main criticism of the new Riverside Museum is aimed, so many wonderful exhibits are placed in areas where they cannot be viewed up close and personal. The dynamic of some objects and placements is undoubtedly clever, but beyond that, there is very little engagement.

There is an area that provides an abstract impression of a locomotive assembly hall, with a large gantry hoist (walkway) over head and the enormous South African Locomotive dwarfing everything else and ruling court as it prepares to thunder out through the fantastic glazed gable overlooking the Glen Lee ship and River Clyde. An experience such as this, the unquestionable sense of scale and power would not have been possible in the old venue.  The SA Loco only recently returned to Glasgow. Old exhibits, of the larger scale from Kelvinbridge still have the chance to shine. The Highlands Railways 103 Caledonian sleeper close to the entrance is an object of dignified and historic beauty.

For those of us that are going to view Flying Scots, Graeme Obree's old faithful, an early and delicious windcheetah by Mike Burrows will not be disappointed. The wall displays of motos and cars don't look easy to 'rotate', so those closer to eye level will be far easier to appreciate. The bikes on the velodrome(ish) light display are so far away, that any sense of appreciation and engagement with the collection is better served through buying a  postcard. Finally, those that are responsible for looking after vehicles with pneumatic tyres, could you please ensure that they are inflated. This may seem like a strange request, but a Ducati 916 (or any bike for that matter) with less that 4 psi in its boots just looks wrong, very wrong.

If a museum could be praised on how kids interact, the Riverside Museum is a major hit. My daughter loved it and judging by the expressions, activity and sheer enthusiasm of other young visitors, she was not alone. The only thing that was missing from the enchanting old street was jam pieces, hopscotch and skint knees. The summer hols are about to start, so it looks like a return visit is on the cards.

Stay inflated

No comments:

Post a Comment