Local museum celebrates increased recognition

21 February 2019

Photograph: Craig Quirie

Glasgow Police Museum has been going from strength to strength and receiving accreditation for recent improvements.

Floating heads, religious relics and a fully sized subway model are what would normally be associated with Glasgow’s top museums. However, there is one in particular that often goes unreported, and its recent recognition should act as flashing lights to those wishing to patrol a particular museum in the city.

Three months ago, The Glasgow Police Museum – which runs entirely on donations – was awarded National Museum Accreditation. It puts the exhibition, which is run entirely by retired police officers, on par with other top museums in the city. Curator Alistair Dinsmor opened the venue in 2009 under the auspices of Glasgow Police Heritage Society. Another police museum had previously been in a police building on St Andrews Square, which limited the amount of visitors due to the complexities surrounding general public visits.

“The accreditation reassures people who want to donate items or provide funding from grants that it’s going into an organisation of a high standard” Dinsmor says. “It was one of our ambitions to become an accredited museum. It was a moment of pride.”

“People from Glasgow remember times from when they were wee, the gang fights and the (Peter) Manuel murders, being examples,” he adds. “We like to converse with them – that’s one of the strengths of the museum, our staff are all ex-policemen. So we discuss how things were done in the old days, and any questions people may have about it.”

Its new home in the city centre ensures a consistent flow of visitors – one recently being a writer from BBC drama Peaky Blinders, which has an average viewership of 3.3 million. On the hunt for information on the notorious 20th century Glaswegian gangs, the writer sought out Dinsmor’s help in ensuring the Blinders moved onto Glasgow as accurately as possible in the upcoming series.

Walking up the dark worn staircase to the first floor museum may have given the writer ideas about potential filming locations. The poorly lit interior of the old Bell Street building, in which the museum is located, wouldn’t look out of place in dreary 1920s Glasgow. Yet, the inside of the museum is impeccably laid out – from 1779 right through to 1975 there is a timeline of books, medals, uniforms, biographies, and weapons.

Photograph: Craig Quirie

Photograph: Craig Quirie

The Sir Percy Sillitoe display would be of particular interest to fans of Peaky Blinders. The notorious police officer moved from Sheffield to Glasgow in the 1920s, after being identified by the council as the man to put an end to the exploits of the city’s infamous gangs. Sillitoe modernised a Glaswegian police force hampered by officers still stuck in the Victorian age, and put a stop to the gangs as promised. One of his right-hand man was given the nickname Hitler, because of his own mean right hand – which he’d use to gain the respect of gangs by putting them in their place. Sillitoe’s achievements and exploits on show piqued the curiosity of the Blinders writer, and Dinsmor believes Sillitoe will play a key part in the upcoming series.

“The writer had a good idea that he wanted to involve the Glasgow gangs in the upcoming series. He came into the museum looking for the finer details, to tell the story.”

In the room next to the Sillitoe display are the uniforms and badges of the world’s police on display. One of the newest additions to the display is a uniform from the Kazakh police force. A recent visiting officer from the country vowed to fill a space with his country’s uniform, and sent one over to join the line-up of dummies locked up on display. There is no surprise that the officer was so quick to ensure his country’s uniform found its way to Glasgow – the authentic North Korean police-hat on display is, humorously, a lesson in foreign relations to the few countries missing from the display.

The intricacy and detail of the displays has ensured that the museum is held in high esteem. Police Scotland have an official partnership with it, in which new recruits are sent for a tour.

“It is very important (for them) to see how the police force developed, and it gives them a better understanding of what they are coming into.” says Dinsmor.

The experience of the voluntary staff is invaluable, they have very much dedicated their entire life to the police. Not just new recruits benefit from it; often those who have lived through notorious times in Glasgow’s history can come in and gain a better understanding of events now that the dust has settled.

This authentic experience, alongside tireless work from the staff has ensured the museum is at the highest rank available. An entire year’s work was put into achieving the Award of Accreditation, with specific policies put in place to ensure the museum is run to the standard of other high ranking venues. Procedures on administration, governance and documentation upkeep were all implemented.

Photograph: Craig Quirie

Alongside the certificate of Accreditation hangs the Tripadvisor certificate of excellence. Both awards are testament to the work put in by staff to ensure the upkeep of a museum that serves as a place of settlement for tourists with perhaps preconceived ideas about the notoriety of Glasgow, and confirmation to locals on historical criminal events in their city’s history. It certainly has its worth, and recent rewards are confirmation of its standing in terms of Glasgow museums.

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