Being born and raised in Glasgow I have been to my fair share of the city’s museums. Before long, though, the word “museum” had connotations of boring afternoons looking at boring things – the same boring things as were there last time. If it was suggested by your parents that the family should spend the afternoon at a museum, you knew you were in for a long day.
Now, after three months working in Barcelona on my year abroad, I’ve realised that this was not a worldwide phenomenon. Having found some time away from the Erasmus stereotypes of drinking odd-coloured cocktails and tucking in your shirt, I was persuaded by a friend to visit one of Barcelona’s famous museums: the Picasso Museum.
Not too keen at first, I quickly realised that this wasn’t like the museums back home. There was no one thing that you had to see. Rather, everything on show was there because it deserved its spot in the exhibition, not just so that the museum looked full.
Of course there were highlights and some paintings that were more popular with visitors than others, but I was so impressed by the museum’s collection as a whole and the opportunity it gave you to get a look into this artist’s talented, if not mental, mind.
Like a teenager who thinks they hate alcohol after a mistaken sip of wine at ten years old, once I’d gotten another taste of museums and realised I actually could enjoy them, I was ready to find another.
A couple of weeks later we checked out the MNAC on the hill at Montjuic. Again, this modern art collection was very well done and as with the Picasso museum I was amazed that almost everything there had something of interest to it. Since then I have been to the Fundació Joan Miró, another impressive gallery showcasing Miró’s top work.
You might not think it at all surprising to prefer museums now compared to when I was six, but I know that this isn’t just with age that I’ve come to appreciate museums, as I visited Glasgow’s new Riverside Museum as recently as March this year. The first thing that struck me when I visited what is the new Transport Museum to those of us who grew up with the old one at Kelvingrove, was that there was a lot more to see at the new museum. But where did all these new exhibits come from? If they were worth seeing, why were they not included in the old museum?
It doesn’t take me long to see that a lot of the new exhibits are not, in my view, worth seeing. There are a lot of bicycles – most of which are too high up to even see and the ones that aren’t are nothing too exciting – and a huge modern ScotRail train, which I’m convinced was the same model as the one I arrived there in. I was half expecting to see a 44 bus or one of the new subway carriages around the corner, classed as history.
The point I’m making is that Glasgow’s museums are not and will not be anything too impressive any time soon. In fact, at times they are the opposite of impressive and risk putting people like the younger me off the enjoyable and educational experience that is going to a museum.
Until the curators put quality ahead of quantity this will not change.