When we came out of the Job Centre on Thursday afternoon Erica was surprised to see the museum and the tall ship just across the Clyde from us and demanded to go. By demanded I obviously mean ‘nipped my head all the way home on the bus and then until her mum came home that night after work’ and not a series of ultimatums which would result in her blowing up my laptop if she didn’t get to go. I’m expecting that kind of thing in about ten yours though…
When the museum opened up in 2011 it was supposed to be the new home for the old transport museum which it was. New exhibits were found and took centre stage and new ways were found to display the older exhibits. In fact they were that proud of their touch screen information displays that they asked someone from Geekdad to go along to the press day. When ever my kids go all they want to do is play with these screens. In most cases they don’t actually want to look at the actual exhibit right beside it they just want to see the videos and pretend to be in CSI Miami by zooming and enhancing all the photos.
Yesterdays trip was no exception to this rule. Erica dragged her sister and I around every single computerised screen so that she could play with them all. Usually she only goes for the massive touchscreens but this time she wanted to go through all the stories as well as the videos. She did look at one of the trains but other than that it was all about the computers and games.
So where does my grudge come from? From the newspaper articles going about before the place opened up it was supposed to be a place that celebrated the shipbuilding on the Clyde as well as looking after the old transport museum. What we ended up with though was a strange looking building that housed the old exhibits and a few new ones in such a way that it completely ruined the experience of the old place. In the old museum your trains and trams took centre stage and had stairs and walkways so you could get inside them or at the very least see them from above so that you could get a better look at them. Now the few trains they have are spread all over the place and despite ramps on the dummy train if you have a wheel chair or a pram you aren’t getting up to see inside them.
There used to be a section devoted to motorbikes and bicycles. Thats been expanded but now most of them hang from the roof or the wall.
They have destroyed the one part of the old museum that had me coming back again and again. In the old Clyde Room they had over 250 model ships with most of them being scale replicas of ships actually built on the Clyde. What you have now is a revolving ‘wall’ of boats and the only way to find out anything about them is as they pass the handful of computer screens. You can’t take your time and look at the details as they move away from you and everyone bunches up around the screens so if you have a pram with you on a busy day you haven’t a hope of getting close enough to read anything. They have also spread the bigger models around the museum, in itself not a bad thing, so the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the QE2 are in one wing and the HMS Hood and a few other random models are in the other. It makes it ‘interesting’ though when your kids run off into the crowds to get to the next model boat though.
The few concessions they have made to the history of the Clyde ship yards seem to be a handful of draughting tools that are broken, a few models of steam engines and a film that lasts about three minutes that was played back to back three times when we were there and then turned off for the rest of our two hour visit.
My biggest gripe with the new layout isn’t the colour scheme by the way although why they chose that institutional green I’ll never understand. It is how they chose to display the cars. They used to have them all on the floor where you could walk right up to them and see inside. My kids loved it and would spend hours just staring through the windows of all the old cars imagining what it was like to drive one. Now they have put them up on the wall where if your lucky you’ll get to see the computer screen that tells you about it as there is no way you’ll be able to see the ones on the top shelf never mind look inside them.
In order for me to see those at the top I need to stand on the other side of the wing and look up. Not the greatest idea when the place is heaving with people trying to see the exhibits on that side. In fact there are times when I wonder just why we even bother going. For all my kids actually look at the exhibits or are able to see them if at all they could learn just as much by sitting at home with wikipedia open on the computer. OK I tell a lie there are a few more pictures at the museum.
One quick word about the computer screens. As I said Geekdad were asked to send someone along to the press night and their press pack made a big deal out of the new touch screens. GeekdadNath couldn’t go as he lives at the opposite end if the country but I was asked if I wanted to go along and do the piece as I lived nearby. The PR folk were great up until they just stopped talking to me. I was left without any information about the actual event and my invite never arrived. It turned out the PR guy went on holiday and just seemed to forget about me despite my attempts to contact him.
All the hassle aside I took the kids along just after it opened and couldn’t stop laughing when I found out that not one of the screens was working anymore. Even now nine months down the line I can’t get half of the screens to work properly. We can’t answer half of the questions on the video quizes because it won’t register our touches and it usually takes three or four attempts to get anything to scroll on the large information screens.
As you can see my entire view on this place is ‘tainted’ by my love for the old museum. If you’ve never been or your kids have never been then I’m sure you’ll love the Riverside Museum. I on the other hand, and many others like myself, cannot stand what they have done to the place.