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Behind the Scenes of 'Paisley Museum Re-Imagined

Our Modern Apprentice, Robyn Evans, writes about her experience on her first ever away day with Museums Galleries Scotland to view the redevelopment work at Paisley Museum. 

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) have annual away days, giving colleagues a chance to get out of the office and do something different as a team. Since starting as a modern apprentice with MGS last September this was my first away day with the organisation. The staff away day this year was a trip to Paisley Museum. Currently undergoing a £42m refurbishment project, we were looking forward to getting a behind the scenes tour.

As part of MGS commitment to reducing carbon emissions we were travelling by coach. We set off not so bright, but definitely early, on our coach to Paisley! The snow inevitably hit as we approached Harthill but soon enough we arrived on Paisley High Street. Deposited outside the museum looking like a lost, and somewhat confused, group of tourists.

Inside the museum

Looking around the Victorian- era building, it was hard to imagine what it was like as a functioning museum. It’s hard to envisage the place full of collections and visitors but it was clear to see the potential of the space. I was pleased to discover the project will preserve but also modernise the building. Keeping original features such as the glass ceiling, the viewing balcony and some of the original outside wall, which was actually only discovered while renovating one of the rooms upstairs in the old library building.

We walked to Renfrewshire Leisure’s offices after our tour, passing ‘The Secret Collection’, where the museums collection is currently held.

"The Secret Collection is the first publicly accessible museum store on a UK High Street, which I think is a really exciting and unique addition to Paisley’s High Street."

Finding my inner reflector 🤔

After a break for lunch we had a team exercise, discovering our unique learning styles. This involved answering a series of questions to determine if you’re an activist, reflector, pragmatist or theorist. My results were a surprise! I hadn’t pinned myself as a reflector! We each took turns drawing our results on to a graph. The exercise was really useful to understand myself and other people’s learning styles. I think this will help how we work as a team.

We then got to hear more about the ‘Paisley Museum re-imagined’ project. This master plan from Renfrewshire Leisure will transform the museum into a modern and accessible space.

Paisley's best kept "secret"

It’s surprising to learn that only 0.3% of the 250,000 objects in their collection were previously on display. The museum will aim to double the number of objects on display, making the most out of the space. As well as displaying the collection in the new museum the remaining objects will still be accessible to the public in The Secret Collection store.

The new displays will be an exciting mixture of interpretation methods including film, text and graphics, games, immersive experience, digital and storytelling. I especially like the idea of storytelling interpretation, focusing on people, their actions, emotions and experiences. Adding context will bring a more personal touch to the objects and encourage engagement with the local community.

Purple sign that reads 'Paisley: the secret collection'

Another exciting addition to the museum will be a café for visitors providing a view onto the High Street. People are at the core of the project. Focusing on the community, Paisley museum will be not only a ‘heritage hub’ but will also be a place for socialising, learning and interacting with the collections.

After seeing the drawings of how the museum will look and hearing about what will be on display, I’m already excited to go back and visit when it reopens.