The Burrell Collection in Glasgow reopens to the public today (Tuesday 29 March) following a multi-year, £68.25 million building upgrade which began in 2016.
The upgrade has seen the museum’s gallery space increased by 35%, with new displays highlighting artwork from the collection, the people who made them and some of the people who have owned them.
In total 225 displays will spread across 24 galleries. The displays include digital elements such as video walls, interactives and hybrid systems created to help people engage with the stories behind the Collection.
A new central stairway will allow visitors access to the lower floor of The Burrell Collection for the first time, where they can watch items not on display being cared for.
A new temporary exhibition space has also been created. Similarly, new galleries have been created on upper floors which will take visitors to spaces in the building not previously accessible.
The museum’s environmental performance has been enhanced through a new roof, glazing and cladding, and by replacing power, heating and lighting systems with more efficient and sustainable technologies.
The changes to the building, which have made it more air tight and water tight, mean the building has achieved industry standard Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating of “Excellent”.
Architects John McAslan + Partners, appointed in 2016, are the refurbishment project’s architect and landscape designers.
Paul East, John McAslan + Partners’ Project Lead for The Burrell Collection said of the building upgrades: “Through The Burrell Project, we have delivered a building whose original design – nearly half a century old – remains largely unchanged and in keeping with its original design intent yet is now completely revitalised, significantly more accessible, and is once again a museum fit for its exemplary collection.”
The Collection is home to the Wagner garden carpet which is one of the earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world, and has rarely been on public display since The Burrell Collection first opened in 1983.
Last year the carpet, which was displayed at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 2018, was one of many pieces loaned to museums around the world during the upgrade. On reopening it will go on permanent display for the first time, accompanied by new and innovative methods of interpretation.
Other objects to go on display include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; mediaeval stained glass, arms and armour, and over 200 tapestries and 150 carpets.
Professor Frances Fowle, Senior Trustee of Sir William Burrell’s Trust said the refurbishment has “surpassed all our expectations, establishing The Burrell Collection as one of the country’s most internationally significant, sustainable and inspiring museums that has something for everyone.”
Nearly half of the funding for the £68.25 million project was committed by Glasgow City Council with more than a quarter coming from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and significant donations from The Scottish Government, the UK Government, and from many generous trusts and private donors.
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The Burrell is well known in Glasgow, Scotland and the UK, but I can see that this is going to be the start of a major new chapter in the life of the museum. It is truly a beautiful landmark for the 21st Century.”
Event was appointed in 2014 to develop the masterplan for the project and subsequently in 2016 to develop the visitor experience and to design and deliver the exhibition displays on all three floors of the building.
Esther Dugdale, Creative Director of Event, said the focus for the displays was “opening the collection up, presenting it in all its beauty, and making it sing within the building. We want to invite visitors to step closer, to appreciate and engage with its meaning, its making and the mind of the man who collected it.”
Since The Burrell Collection closed to the public in October 2016, a comprehensive consulation programme has engaged with more than 15,000 local people who have given their ideas, insights and opinions. This input has shaped every aspect of the redesign of the building, access to it and the development of the new displays, galleries and spaces within and around the museum.
The Scottish Parliament passed a bill in 2014 which would allow international loans of objects from and to The Burrell Collection. While it was closed, objects from the Collection were seen by more than a million people on loan to museums in New York, Paris, Japan and London.