Riverside Museum

A dramatic new home for Glasgow's transport collection

Lucy Harland, a former social history curator and BBC radio producer, introduces the short films she has made for the Riverside Museum Appeal website. Bob James, a retired Glasgow Fire Service officer and Guide/Researcher at the Museum of Transport comments on the prospect of working at the Zaha Hadid-designed building when it opens in 2011.

When the Riverside Museum opens next year the dramatic building will become the new home for Glasgow's transport collection.

Here Lucy Harland talks about the short films she has made which introduce some of the stories behind the exhibits. Then Bob James, who features in one of the films, takes up the story.

Lucy Harland: Introducing the riverside story

Each of the 14 films I made for the Riverside Museum Appeal website focuses on one of around 120 Riverside story displays. These range from Bob James's experiences battling blazes with the iconic Leyland Firemaster ("a toolbox on wheels") to the "enormous challenge" of restoring and transporting the gargantuan South African steam locomotive 3007; from replicating the excitement of a ship launch to how the world-famous liner QE2 was commandeered as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands War.  The films can also be found on YouTube.

The people and the transport

The stories are about the people who built these wonderful vehicles and the people who worked on them. But Riverside also tells the stories of those who used these objects.

One film is about how Glasgow was 'dancing daft' - it is aimed at today's teenagers and shows how 16 and 17 year olds in the 1960s went dancing several times a week to, for example, the Barrowland Ballroom.   The film also includes the dresses and music of the time - as well as a glitterball!

Down our street

Another film is about Riverside's re-created street, which spans the years between 1890 and 1930.  

Visitors loved Kelvin Street at the Museum of Transport and wanted another at Riverside - with the opportunity to enter the shops. You'll be able to go into the photographers to have your picture taken, or pop along to the Italian café to soak up the atmosphere and discover how they made ice-cream.

Hairpin bends

To help recount the stories, Riverside is also using the latest audio-visual technology and "large, imposing" displays.    Among them will be "Rest and Be Thankful, which uses cars on the curved walls to tell the story of how they were tested on the Argyll road's multiple hairpin bends.

A taster for what's to come

Through these films I hope visitors will get an understanding of what they will be able to experience at Riverside and share the project team's excitement in celebrating what many  Glaswegians experienced every day of their working lives.

I think it will be a great museum that visitors will get a lot of pleasure from. What's critical about Glasgow's museums is that they are free to enter, and many people rely on them for a really good day out. So, if people make a small contribution to the Appeal, it will make a huge difference.


Bob James: Anticipating the Riverside Museum

When 56-year-old Bob James retired from Strathclyde Fire Brigade after 25 years of bravely helping to save lives and property, he became a volunteer Guide and Researcher at the Museum of Transport. Now  he is looking forward to showing visitors round the new Riverside Museum.

I retired because of an injury that confined me to home for two years until I recovered. Two Museum of Tranport guides, who were friends from an old car club, suggested becoming one as a good way of re-introducing myself into mainstream society.

Ordinary lives

When I started in 1999, I volunteered one morning and afternoon a month and went through the training. It was really interesting, particularly because the objects related to ordinary people. They might have owned a car of that type, or travelled on that tramcar. There was also a Leyland Firemaster, which I rode to fires on when I was a recruit, so I had a personal link with one of the exhibits.  

Because of my experience with the fire brigade, the Curator responsible for emergency service vehicles asked if I would help with an exhibition she was producing.

Volunteering enthusiasm

I enjoyed the research and visitor contact so much that, for the last seven years of the Museum's life I volunteered five days a week.

I never anticipated enjoying the job so much. I have been passionate about motor vehicles all my life, and discovered that my research was much the same as I was doing at home in my spare time. At the Museum of Tranport it became more focussed because I would be asked to find out more about a particular vehicle, so would tease out evidence and information.

A home for technolgy

When it opened in 1964 at Albert Drive, the building's official name was the Glasgow Museum of Transport (and Technology). However, there was nowhere to accommodate the technological exhibits as they were being collected. They included washing machines, the first microwaves, heated curlers and hot-powered gramophones from the 1900s.  

The Riverside Museum will include three streets with stores 'selling' these inventions.

Explore the past

Transport will still be the major filler, with groups of trams, buses and Scottish cars. It will be laid-out like an adventure for young adults to discover: What's around this corner? What happens when I do this? What's behind this door? It's about creating an urge to go and find out.


Contribute to the Riverside Museum Appeal

Glasgow's much loved Museum of Transport closed its doors for the final time in April 2010, paving the way for the move to the impressive new Riverside Museum being built on the banks of the Clyde. During its 22 years at the Kelvin Hall site, well over 10 million visitors came to see the collection of cars, trains, motorbikes, trams and the unique collection of ship models.  The iconic Riverside Museum opens in Spring 2011, and the public can have a stake in the museum by donating to the Riverside Museum Appeal to help raise £5million. To date £3.7million has been raised,  and everyone who makes a donation will have their name permanently recognised within the new museum on digital touch screens. Every penny will help the Riverside Museum Appeal reach its target and help care for Glasgow's world class transport collection. To donate visit www.riversideappeal.org or text RIVERSIDE and your name to 70700 to donate £5. Texts cost £5 plus standard network rate. Full terms and conditions available on our website.

We are grateful to Glasgow Magazine for permission to use this material.

30th September 2010

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  • Exterior of the new museum
  • Architect's impression of the Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Aerial view of the Riverside Museum