One of Glasgow’s most famous museums may close for refurbishment in the near future.
Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) was a Scottish shipping magnate who travelled the world collecting beautiful artifacts and interesting knick-knacks. His particular interest was late medieval and early Renaissance Europe but he also collected Chinese figurines, carpets and even an entire room from a castle. There are works by famous artists, such as Degas, and ancient Greek and Roman items. The whole collection of some 8,000 pieces is a fascinating insight into one man’s passion for art.
In 1948, Sir William gifted the collection to the City of Glasgow but with some quite strict rules and regulations regarding the display and use of the items. One such was that the collection must be displayed at least sixteen miles from the city centre as he was concerned about the effect of pollution.
It wasn’t until another famous Glasgow family donated Pollock House and its surrounding estate to the city in 1967 that it was decided that a suitable setting had been found.
An elegant building was created in the grounds of Pollock House with wide vistas of the park and large, light, airy rooms to display the collection to the best effect. The building was opened in 1983 by the Queen and has proved a major attraction to locals and tourists alike.
However, there are now problems with the building and a major refurbishment project is to be carried out which will see a new roof put in place and more gallery space created. It could mean the collection being closed to the public for up to four years, probably from 2016-2020.
Trustees and managers of the collection wish to send a selection of the items on tour around the world whilst the refurbishment takes place but have come up against a major problem. Sir William Burrell’s bequest insists that the collection he so loved must not be lent out as he was concerned about items being damaged in transit.
A special parliamentary Bill will have to be passed through the Scottish Parliament before anything can happen to overturn the stipulation in the bequest about foreign travel for collection items.
A statement put out by the Burrell Collection says: “The Burrell Trustees, chaired by Sir Peter Hutchison, alongside Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, are examining proposals which would relax restrictions and allow an international tour taking account of the concerns which Sir William Burrell had and how circumstances have changed in the last 60 or so years.”
Sir Peter Hutchison, chair of the Burrell Trustees, says: “The trustees welcome the forthcoming refurbishment, which will transform the Burrell building and provide a fitting context for this world class collection. New gallery space will be created, a wider range of objects displayed, facilities upgraded, and any structural defects, such as the roof, remedied.”
If the plans go ahead, it will mean that the Glasgow treasures will be seen by a wide audience in Europe, North America and Asia as well as in other museums in the UK. Sir William Burrell is no doubt turning in his grave.