Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Glasgow City Council rewrites bequest and Burrell Collection gets set for World tour when building closes for refurbishment

While I don’t subscribe to the general drivel that some promote regarding the behaviour of Glasgow City Council, it’s sadly true that the council does take advantage of its position to get its own way against the wishes of others.

Case in point, the famous Burrell Collection, and the wishes of shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), who made the bequest to his city on condition that his prized artworks and historical artefacts were not loaned overseas, for fear of damage during transport.

Glasgow City Council recently approved the promotion of a Private Bill in the Scottish Parliament to change the terms of the original bequest – the decision to tour some items belonging to the collection had to be passed by law as it went against the terms of the original bequest.

Apparently, Sir William was unable to attend the reading of the Bill, and contribute to the debate.

It was argued that a tour would reaffirm the collection’s status as one of the most important in the world but also help with public fundraising efforts toward the cost of the refurbishment.


The museum is set to close from 2016 to 2020, when many of its 8,000 exhibits going on a World tour now that the bequest terms have been overturned, or “relaxed” to use the council’s terminology.

I’ve taken the opportunity to slot in some pics that show the interior as it appears now, and we can maybe have a look again after it reopens, and see how things compare – I’m hoping for good things.

I hope they do something with the restaurant. In the flesh, it looks as if they just threw some tables and chairs along the window space, as nothing ties it together with the serving area, and if memory serves me correctly (haven’t been able to get back for some time) the lifts spill into the same area, so I don’t think it was originally thought out.

The Burrell Renaissance group has been formed to advise on aspects such as the display of items as well as developing a fundraising programme, and will be chaired by former National Galleries chairman Sir Angus Grossart.

The present museum building immediately gained recognition as a superb home for the collection, set in a uniquely beautiful setting.

But the building has been there since 1983, and is now in need of renovation, and the work is seen as an opportunity to create new gallery space, allowing more items to be displayed.

This seems reasonable, as a visit to the museum presents the visitor with a display that is undeniably extremely spacious, but shows only a fraction of the collection, when more could be made available. I know my second visit, when I had more time to reflect on what I was looking at, had me wondering about the remainder of the collection.

It’s interesting to note the comments of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a former ambassador to the US and head of the Foreign Office,who  has also been appointed to the Group and said he hopes the project will increase the collection’s international profile:

I believe the Burrell Collection is Scotland’s special secret and it’s high time for it to be more widely shared.

When I was ambassador in Washington I was shocked to find that so few in the States had heard of it, though the collection is comparable to the famous Frick in New York, and should attract comparable crowds.

I’m proud to be associated with the imaginative Renaissance plan, an initiative of which Glasgow can be justly proud.

This doesn’t surprise me, as I can think of few instances where I have come across mentions of the collection, or seen it figure in lists of well-known attractions.

Via British Museum director to advise on Burrell Collection revamp

Also Burrell Collection refurbishment overseen by British Museum head | News | Glasgow | STV

One of the original features of the building was the incorporation of some of the features into the architecture of the structure, which meant that some of the larger artefacts could be accommodated in a way that led to their re-use:

Lest I be slotted into any sort of “anti-tour protest group” or suchlike, then I should add that this is not the reason for my opening gripe, which is really intended only to mark Glasgow City Council in my “Little Black Book”, with a documented instance of it not only doing as it wished, regardless of someone else’s wish, but of the extent to which it will go to in order to achieve that end.

In fact, the idea of a World Tour is an obvious means of gaining publicity for the Burrell, and I would hope that in the time since the bequest was made, we have the means and methods available to carry out such an event with little or no danger to the artefacts, and hope there is no story in 2020 about damage.

These days, I’m actually more concerned over the likelihood that artefacts will go missing.

And, the last shots we dug up showed the interior, and give and idea of the setting, with wide glass window that open onto the greenery of the surrounding.


May 9, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian, council | , , ,

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