Riverside Museum

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the Riverside Museum

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the Riverside Museum Project.

Part 1 – the museum

1. Where is this new museum going to be?

The Riverside Museum is being built on the banks of the River Clyde at Pointhouse Quay in Yorkhill, opposite Govan, where the Clyde meets the River Kelvin. That is about 1km downstream from the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. It is a key part of the Glasgow Harbour development.

The location is steeped in history. It was a ferry crossing since the Middle Ages, and was at the heart of Glasgow’s industrial past. It is the site of the former A&J Inglis shipyard, where the paddle steamer Waverley was built and launched.

Other shipyards of yesteryear, such as Harland & Wolff and Robert Napier, were close by. On the south side of the river, in Govan, BAe’s shipyard is still operating.

The new museum will incorporate the Clyde Maritime Trust, which owns and operates the Tall Ship Glenlee, which will be berthed alongside the Riverside Museum. Glenlee is one of only five Clyde-built sailing vessels afloat in the world today and the only one in the UK. As a trade ship, Glenlee played an important part in supporting Glasgow’s substantial export industry. The juxtaposition of the impressive 19th-century Glenlee alongside the stunning 21st-century Zaha Hadid-designed building incorporating the city’s transport collections will be a fitting tribute to Glasgow’s internationally important maritime and transport heritage, something that is not easily achieved at the location of the Museum of Transport at Kelvin Hall.

2. Will the Riverside Museum be as large as the existing Museum of Transport?

It will be around the same size, but will also house the Clyde Maritime Trust’s offices and workshop, and have the impressive Tall Ship Glenlee berthed alongside.

The Riverside Museum will have 7,500 square metres of public space, which is slightly more than the existing Museum of Transport. More of this public space will be on the ground floor, however, which means our collections will be much more accessible to visitors. This also gives us greater flexibility over the display of larger objects, such as cars, trams, buses and locomotives.

3. Will there be more objects on display?

Yes. In fact, there will be more than double – 3,000 objects, compared with 1,300 at present. One of those will be the recently acquired South African locomotive, Glasgow Museums’ largest object. You will also be able to visit the Tall Ship Glenlee, which will be moved to a new berth alongside the Riverside Museum. Other vessels belonging to the Clyde Maritime Trust will also be on display

A small number of objects currently on loan have been or are about to be returned to their owners, such as the royal train carriage. Many of the objects that were on display at the Museum of Transport are now being stored and conserved at the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) in Nitshill. Most of these will form part of the displays at Riverside when it opens in 2011. GMRC is open to the public and runs daily tours. Please phone 0141 276 9300 for more details and to book.

The design of Riverside Museum and Glasgow Museums Resource Centre makes it much easier to move objects between sites. A basic principle of Riverside is that the displays are flexible and easy to change – unlike the Museum of Transport.

We also plan to make our displays reflect your interests. Dedicated IT stations will enable visitors to share their thoughts on the museum and let us know what subjects and themes you would like to see displayed in the future.

We will have around 150 separate displays in Riverside, and we aim to change at least 10 displays each year.

4. Will entry to Riverside Museum be free?

Yes, though the Clyde Maritime Trust may charge for entry to the Tall Ship Glenlee, as they do currently.

5. Will the new museum be easy to get to and will there be car parking?

Yes, whether by car, coach, bus, rail, subway, bike or foot. A direct connection to the Clydeside Expressway will allow easy access to cars and coaches. A large car park of about 370 places, including 12 bays for disabled drivers and a similar number of bays for parents with children, will be in front of the museum. There is also public car parking at Kelvin Hall, the home of the Museum of Transport until April 2010. It’s about a 10-minute walk to Riverside. 

Partick train, subway and bus station is a short distance away – about a five to 10 minute walk.

Cyclists and pedestrians will be able to travel easily from Partick station, Kelvin Hall and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, or from the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and Glasgow Science Centre along the River Clyde walkway. Bicycle racks will be provided close to the museum.

There will also be a new dedicated bus service connecting Partick train, subway and bus station, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the new Riverside Museum.

Glasgow City Council has approved the funds to construct a public slipway adjacent to the Riverside Museum.  A ferry service operating from Glasgow city centre to Bowling will call at Yorkhill Quay alongside the museum. The city council is also considering a cross-Clyde ferry link.

6. Will there be a re-created street like Kelvin Street and the subway as there is at the Museum of Transport?

Yes. There will actually be three re-created streets. The streets will incorporate two smaller subways and access to the ‘shops’ for the first time. These shops include an Edwardian photography studio, a 1930s Italian Café, and a 1960s garage. The streets will cover the periods 1890–1930, 1930–60, and 1960–80.

7. Will I be able to get onto the vehicles?

Yes. Currently, there is only limited access to two locomotive footplates. In Riverside, you will be able to enter two subway cars, three trams, four locomotive footplates, one train carriage and one bus.

8. Will information be available in a range of languages and for sight- and hearing-impaired visitors?

The building and displays have been designed to be as accessible as possible for all visitors, no matter their age, background or ability. However, there will be specific provision for sensory-impaired visitors and visitors whose first language is not English. This includes:

  • elements of some of our eIntros (digital displays) will be available in different language
  • majority of audio displays will have subtitles. Displays that are audio only will have transcripts and audio loops
  • All audio content provided on handheld devices will have an induction loop for hearing-impaired visitors
  • 10% of displays designed specifically for people with a sensory impairment
  • tactile trails for people who are visually impaired
  • floor plans and general museum information in major tourist and local languages
  • audio guides in major tourist and local languages are in planning
  • audio guides for people with a visual impairment are in planning.

 9. When did the current Museum of Transport close and when will the Glenlee close to visitors, and what will happen to them?

The Museum of Transport closed on 18 April 2010. The subway carriages were the first objects to be moved out of the Museum of Transport and installed in the Riverside Museum.

The Museum of Transport shares the Kelvin Hall building with an international sports facility. Kelvin Hall will continue to operate as a sports venue but a decision has not yet been made on the use of the remaining space.

The Clyde Maritime Trust will close the Tall Ship Glenlee in autumn 2010.

10. When will the Riverside Museum open?

Spring 2011. The completion date for the fit-out of the building is December 2010. The date for the refurbishment of the Tall Ship Glenlee is early spring 2011. This will be followed by a period of testing as well as funder and community events.

11. Why did the current Museum of Transport have to shut a year before the Riverside Museum is open?

The closure of the museum was triggered by the need to move the large railed vehicles.  These have started to be moved with the removal due for completion around August 2010.  They have to be installed in the Riverside Museum at an early stage to allow access platforms, lifts and other display structures to be built around them. Smaller vehicles and museum collections will be installed last. The subway carriages are the first items to be moved and installed in the new museum and to do this requires demolition of part of the existing re-created street at the Museum of Transport. Moving the other railed vehicles will require other collections to be moved, greatly reducing public access space and also permanently damaging the exhibition floor.  Unlike the floor of the Riverside Museum, the Museum of Transport’s floor was not designed to accommodate the movement of locomotives, trains and subway carriages without damage. The fit-out period for the Riverside Museum is 11 months. The fit-out of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum took more than a year and did not involve moving such large objects. 

While the museum of transport is closed, we are more than happy to answer specific questions about the collections or the new Riverside Museum (call 0141 287 2660 or email. 

You can also see some of Glasgow’s ship models, vehicles and transport-related collections displayed at:

Part 2 – the building

1. Who is the architect?

Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid won the contract to design a new museum of transport for Glasgow in 2004.

Hadid has established an international reputation for her innovative and contemporary designs. Though her buildings are often described as organic, Hadid is well known for embracing new technology and materials.

Hadid has worked on other museums as well as Riverside. Her completed museums include the Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Arts in Cincinnati, the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome and the Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany.

She is also the architect for the Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy, her first completed project in Britain, which opened in 2004. That same year, Hadid became the first female recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

2. How much will it cost?

The current cost of the Riverside Museum is £74 million, including display fit-out and fees. That is a robust cost, based on tendered packages of work, and reflects the current market price of the museum.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided £18.1m towards the cost of the Riverside Museum, phase 2 of GMRC and the creation of the Collections Navigator. It is the largest HLF grant to any museum project in Scotland.

The Riverside Museum Appeal, chaired by Lord Smith, aims to raise £5m towards the costs. By April 2010, it had raised more than £3m from benefactors, charitable trusts, corporations and the public. The RMA’s public appeal launched on 18 April 2010. The remaining money is coming from Glasgow City Council.

3. Is the building environmentally friendly?

Yes. High-quality museum buildings, such as the Riverside Museum, are inherently energy efficient. The requirement to provide a stable environment to help conserve the collections also reduces the power consumption to heat and light the building.

Riverside Museum has a deep wall and roof makeup and triple thickness glass that help to stabilise the environment within the building and conserve heat. The glazing is heavy filtered to contain solar-gain, particularly on the south-facing façade. This is so that the building’s heating and cooling systems do not have to work harder to maintain a stable environment.  The filtering has been applied in such a way that the views to the outside are maintained.

Similarly, high light levels damage some materials such as textiles, wood and paper. Light levels will be set low enough to reduce damage but high enough to make it easy for visitors to get around.  The cold cathode lighting chosen as the main lighting for the building is energy efficient and very long life.

Much of the display lighting uses innovative low-power LED technology to reduce power consumption and further stabilise the environment inside the building.

The structures and cases that make up the 150 separate displays in the museum are of a modular design so that they can be reused for new displays.  Overall, the displays are around 70% reusable.

The architects, engineers, display designers and contractors had to provide an environmental policy or statement as part of their selection process.

During the construction of the museum our contractors have sought to make the site environmentally friendly. In January 2010, the project was given a 5 out of 5 inspection by the independent Considerate Constructors Scheme. The CCS’s report highlighted Riverside’s considerate use of building materials. This included the recycling wood rather than sending it to landfill. The CCS grading, which also looked at cleanliness and safety, means that Riverside is one of the most responsible construction sites in Britain.

4. Why was the contract not given to a Scottish architect?

European procurement rules are designed to ensure competition across Europe for all major contracts.

Only a handful of Scottish architects applied for the Riverside Project. One did reach the final short list, but had considerably less experience of large building projects than the chosen architect Zaha Hadid.

5. What if Glasgow Harbour’s surrounding development is not delivered in time for the museum opening?

The Riverside Museum is a key part of the regeneration of the Clyde corridor and Glasgow Harbour development. Its success will be greatly enhanced by surrounding developments but it does not depend upon them.

From the huge amount of visitor research that we have carried out, we know that the existing Museum of Transport is a destination attraction: that is, the vast majority of the 500,000 visitors each year choose to visit as the main part of their day and they come to see the collections. The venue does not depend upon passing trade.

For the museum to succeed, the main requirement is good infrastructure and access. The Riverside Museum will be more accessible than the Museum of Transport. This will be because of proximity and connections to:

  • the Clydeside Expressway and Partick train, subway and bus station 
    existing cycle and pedestrian ways, and
  • new dedicated bus service linking Partick station, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Riverside Museum.

The strength of the attraction is further increased by:

  • the inclusion of the Tall Ship Glenlee alongside the new museum
  • the opportunity to interpret Glasgow’s internationally significant shipbuilding history
  • much better interpretation and facilities to understand the existing collections, and
  • the creation of a landmark building by a world-renowned architect.
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Written by Colin Campbell

July 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm

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