Lots to learn as school reopens

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Glasgow's Scotland Street School Museum reopens in October after a pound;550,000 refurbishment.

The pound;550,000 year-long refurbishment of Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow, which will be officially reopened on October 5, has retained all its best education and activity features. These include the three historic classrooms, the School Days exhibition and the old-fashioned cookery room.

The even better news is that two further attractions and a dedicated activities room have been added. Special doors, ramps and a new lift mean the former school, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is an A-listed building, also mean it can be accessed by people with disabilities.

One of Glasgow Museums' senior curators, Rosemary Watt, who is overseeing the refurbishment, says the museum's Mackintosh Room will tell the story of the commissioning, designing and building of the school. Included in the exhibition will be Mackintosh's drawings, the correspondence he had with the School Board of Glasgow when the project went over budget and a scale model of the school which was produced for an exhibition on Mackintosh a few years ago at a cost of pound;30,000 - only pound;4,000 less than the original building.

The Scotland Street Room concentrates on the social history of the school from its opening in 1906, when 1,250 pupils attended, to its closure in 1979, when only 89 children were on the role. Using original documents, photographs, objects and interviews with former pupils and staff, visitors will learn what life was like for the school's occupants during its 73-year history and how education evolved during that time.

The exhibition covers discipline, dress code, the two world wars and the saga of the toilets. In a letter to the School Board in 1907, the Scotland Street heidie asks whether toilet paper could be supplied for the pupils. They did get paper but had to wait decades before roofs were put on the outside cludgies, which froze in winter.

The school's social history will be set in the wider context of how the physical environment of the surrounding area changed over the years as tenements were demolished and roads built. It will also look at how the rest of Glasgow, Scotland and Britian evolved during that time.

Ms Watt maintains that all visitors, from pre-schoolers to university graduates, will be able to enjoy and learn from the intense amount of information in the two new exhibitions. "We've used simple cartoon labelling as well as two levels of text labelling," she explains, "which means that even children who haven't started reading yet will be able to follow the story."

By the end of the year the museum will introduce a variety of interactive touch screens with games and projects. There will be links to Glasgow Museums' education database which includes details on Scotland Street and video interviews with past pupils.

Visiting children will be able to change into costumes for historic classroom sessions. Live video links to the classrooms will allow sessions to be viewed by others.

From October to January, Showcase 2001, featuring more than 200 examples of prize-winning craft work by students at Glasgow colleges in the past year, will be on display in the museum's temporary exhibition gallery.

Scotland Street School Museum, Glasgow, tel 0141 287 0500

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