Faqs - Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

When was Kelvingrove first opened?
Kelvingrove first opened its doors to the public on 2 May 1901 when it formed a major part of the Glasgow International Exhibition. Its collections came mainly from the McLellan Galleries and from the City Industrial Museum, which had been opened in the former Kelvingrove Mansion in 1870. The initial money for the building came from the profits of the International Exhibition of 1888, which was held in Kelvingrove Park.

Did all the money to build Kelvingrove come from this exhibition?
No. There was a profit of over £40,000 from the International Exhibition. The Association for the Encouragement of Arts and Music in the City of Glasgow added to this by public subscription, increasing the total to over £120,000. The Town Council then took over the completion of the building when the Association ran out of funds. The total cost was over £250,000.

Who designed the building?
The architects were chosen after an open competition. John W Simpson and EJ Milner Allen, joint architects, of London, were declared the winners in 1892.

What style of architecture is the building based upon?
At the time, the architects described their design as ‘an astylar composition on severely Classic lines, but with free Renaissance treatment in detail’. Although it combines a variety of styles, the best description is Spanish Baroque; indeed, the two main towers are inspired by those of the great pilgrimage church of Santiago de Compostela, in Santiago, which is in Northeast Spain.

Is it true the building was built ‘the wrong way round’?
No. This is a popular myth, as is the story about the architect committing suicide by leaping from one of the towers. The ‘wrong way round’ myth probably stems from the fact the main entrance is from Kelvingrove Park, while most visitors enter from the main road, which is Argyle Street.
What happened to the contents of Kelvingrove during World War II?
The most valuable works were housed at secret locations around the country. A bomb landed in nearby Kelvin Way in 1941, shattering 50 tons of window glass and damaging many of the plaster casts in the Sculpture Court of Kelvingrove.

Why was it decided to restore the building?
At the start of the 21st century, Glasgow City Council took the opportunity to upgrade the building and redisplay the galleries to attract new and wider audiences. After much research and public consultation, the plans for the refurbishment were laid down under the title ‘New Century Project’.

How long did the restoration take?
Kelvingrove closed to the public in June 2003 and reopened in July 2006.

How much did the restoration of Kelvingrove cost, and where did the money come from?
Total cost of £27.9 million. Heritage Lottery Fund nearly £13 million, Glasgow City Council and European Regional Development Fund £12 million, including £2.5 million from private sponsorship and fund raising through the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal, and Historic Scotland £500,000.

Where were the collections held during the restoration?
The 200,000 objects from Kelvingrove were moved to new purpose-built, state-of-the-art storage facilities at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre in Nitshill, Glasgow, while the restoration work was being done. Two hundred of the most popular objects were put on display at McLellan Galleries in the exhibition Art Treasures of Kelvingrove. The exhibition ran from April 2003 until October 2005 and helped retain public access to the collection, and sustain interest in the project.

Moving the objects from Kelvingrove must have been a huge task. Exactly what was involved?
It was huge logistical operation that started in 2001 when packing was begun in anticipation of funding being given the go-ahead. It took 50 staff three years to pack and decant the 200,000 objects. They used 7,000 metres of bubble wrap, filled 2,000 boxes and 3,000 trays of natural history and geology specimens, and the vans transporting the objects covered 500 miles travelling between Kelvingrove and the Resource Centre in Nitshill.

Were all the objects removed from Kelvingrove?
No, some had to remain in the building, and they sealed in protective environments during the restoration. Objects such as Sir Roger the Asian elephant, the granite sarcophagus of Pa-Ba-Sa, and a number of sculptures such as John Flaxman’s figure of William Pitt.

How many of the 200,000 objects will now be on display?
The restoration work has increased the amount of objects that can be on display at any one time by 50%. This means there will be 8,000 objects on display. The new modular display cases also make it easier to change displays.

Was the exterior stonework cleaned as part of the restoration?
No. The exterior stonework was cleaned in 1987.

Was the interior stonework cleaned?
Yes. The interior blonde sandstone had been dulled by air pollution over the decades until it became a dull grey colour. The cleaning process used was originally used on St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and is called Arte Munde. It involves a chemical-infused latex being sprayed in to the stone, left for a period of time, then carefully peeled off. The dirt is absorbed by the latex, and the stone is left clean and undamaged.

Is Salvador Dali’s painting Christ of St John of the Cross now back in Kelvingrove?
Yes. Dali’s painting was moved to St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art when it opened in 1993. The painting hung there until just before Kelvingrove reopened after the restoration work.

Can I bring in an object to have it identified and find out more information about it?
Yes. Curatorial staff will be available for consultation in the Study Centre. You can take objects in for identification, or to find out more information about them. Please note that we are unable to give valuations.

Can I order images of objects on display?
Yes. You can find out more about ordering images by visiting our online Photo Library: http://www.glasgowmuseums.com/photolibrary.cfm. The Kelvingrove shops also sell a range of items based on the collections, and you can find out more on our shop page: http://www.glasgowmuseums.com/shop.cfm.

Are there guided tours?
Yes. There are free daily guided tours. Groups can book a tour by telephoning the museums on 0141 287 2699.

Can school groups visit Kelvingrove?
Yes. Our Education Service provides programmes and resources for education providers from pre-school to higher education, including special needs. Resources include activity sheets linked to the collections, handling boxes, and in-service training for teachers and other education professionals. Find out more from our Education pages http://www.glasgowmuseums.com/venue/education.cfm?venueid=4 or telephone the Museums Education Service on 0141 565 4112 or 0141 565 4113.

How much are the objects at Kelvingrove worth?
The estimated value of the Kelvingrove collections is in the region of £600 million. But the cultural and historical values of the collections cannot be measured in monetary terms.

When did the Annual Children’s Art Competition begin?
The annual art competition was established in 1904. It continues to this day, and is supported by the Friends of Glasgow Museums. To find our more about the Annual Art Competition, telephone the museum on 0141 287 2699.

Where can I find out about job vacancies in your museums and galleries?
Glasgow Museums is part of Glasgow City Council, and all vacancies are dealt with by the Council's Personnel Department. Vacancies are listed on the Council's website at: www.glasgow.gov.uk/vacancies and museum vacancies are listed under Cultural and Leisure Services.

How do I find out about the volunteering opportunities with Glasgow Museums?
Visit our news sections to find out the latest volunteering news and current volunteering opportunities. A volunteering update is emailed to people interested in volunteering and lists all of our current opportunities. To join the list, or to find out more information about volunteering with Glasgow Museums, send your email address to Catherine Cartmell, our Volunteer & Placement Co-ordinator: catherine.cartmell@cls.glasgow.gov.uk or telephone 0141 276 9381.

Can I hire a Glasgow Museums' venue for a corporate hospitality or community event?
Yes, some of our venues are available for hire and a full range of catering options is available. Encore Creative Catering operate venue hire and catering facilities on behalf of Glasgow Museums. Visit www.encorecatering.co.uk to find out more, or telephone 0141 353 9108.

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