Your guides to the Palace:
Fiona Hayes, Curator People's Palace
Jim Kelly, Museum Assistant
The People’s Palace was originally conceived as a museum for everyone in Glasgow, rather than the select few who frequented the public galleries in the West End . It was built in the East End to ensure it had one of the most important museums on its doorstep and it emphasises vernacular history rather than "high art".
The idea of palaces for the people was not new. The first building of its kind was opened in the East End of London by Queen Victoria in 1887, to provide recreational facilities for London’s Eastenders. It was Councillor Robert Crawford, who felt that Glasgow should be looking after the people’s cultural needs and conceived of the project. It was designed by A B Macdonald and opened in 1898 by Lord Rosebery who hoped it would become "a palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory can rest."
One of the museum’s greatest challenges is to represent the diverse communities of the city. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and the fourth largest city in Britain. It has been multi-cultural for hundreds of years. By the middle of the 19th century only a fifth of city residents were natives, one fifth had actually been born in Ireland. Towards the end of the century waves of immigration saw Lithuanians, Ukranians, Poles and Italians settle in the city. There have also been significant numbers of Asian immigrants, settling and making the city their home.
The Glaswegian urban dialect, otherwise known as the "Patter" was once scorned as vulgar speech, but now assumes a well-deserved privileged status within the People’s Palace. It is celebrated through video displays of famous Glaswegians like Dorothy Paul. The fact that "Patter" is extremely rich in humour is something the museum has been careful to demonstrate.
The museum aims to reflect the fact that there are many different stories that contribute to Glasgow’s history and identity. It has a strong tradition of protest movement and solidarity amongst its workers but it is also a city that was built on the endeavours of capitalist entrepreneurs who made money out of industries like cotton manufacture and ship-building.
Billy Connolly’s Banana Boots
The People’s Palace is a museum with a great sense of humour. To celebrate this aspect of the Glasgow identity, one if its funniest sons, Billy Connolly, contributed a stunning pair of boots shaped like bananas to be put on display. In putting such an affectionate emphasis on popular culture, the People’s Palace has found a special place in the minds and hearts of Glaswegians.
Take it further
The People’s Palace Book of Glasgow
Mainstream Publishing 1998
The People’s Palace
The People's Palace website