Glasgow Museums’ transport and technology collections reflect the leading role played by Glasgow and the West of Scotland in advances made in scientific enquiry and industrial production.
The technology collections were first developed for the opening of the City Industrial Museum in 1870. This was intended to highlight the output of Glasgow’s industries and included samples and models from the important chemical, textile, locomotive and shipbuilding firms in the area. There were also examples of innovations in the making of optical and scientific instruments and communications technology. The museum displayed Glasgow’s civic pride in its scientific and industrial achievements and provided a prestigious front window for its products. It also played an important didactic role in teaching Glasgow’s young citizens about engineering and technology.
Many of the collections were loaned and often replaced by newer more impressive exhibits. Even items formally acquired into the collection were regarded in the same spirit of renewal and were often discarded in favour of more representative examples of modern industry. Although much has been lost there is still much of great interest that has survived from the early days of the museum. This is partly a result of industrial failure when loaned material from failed companies was retained and eventually assimilated into the core collections. Such a direct relationship between the city’s industries and the museum collections gives them an added degree of significance. This is particularly true of the outstanding ship and marine engineering models. the Clyde was at the forefront of revolutionary change in the shipbuilding industry so not only is the collection a truly representative sample of the Clyde’s output, it also represents an important period of ship design and building that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
In 1962 Glasgow’s trams were withdrawn from service. This gave the impetus to secure the preservation of a number of Glasgow Corporation tramcars. This led to the establishment of a new Museum of Transport, located in the old tramworks in Albert Drive. Its collections were built up around this time with significant acquisitions culminating today in an unrivalled Scottish car collection, a comprehensive collection of Scottish built railway locomotives, a small group of buses noted for their innovative designs and a wide variety of horse-drawn vehicles from the West of Scotland. It also has the second largest fire-engine collection in the country, a Spitfire, caravans, subway vehicles and a station, some very rare commercial vehicles and a collection of cycles that includes almost certainly the oldest bicycle in the world. Unusually for Scottish museums, Glasgow museums has acquired collections of prams and disability transport, both reflecting a growing focus on users and their needs. The most significant recent acquisition is a powerful steam locomotive from the 1940s, a prime example of Glasgow’s locomotive builders export business.