Q&A with Billy Gartley

Simon Stephens, 11.09.2017
Dundee celebrates 150th anniversary of the McManus art gallery and museum
Billy Gartley is the head of cultural services at Leisure & Culture Dundee, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the McManus, the city’s art gallery and museum. Events include a party on 12 September that will be opened by the venue’s choir in residence, Loadsweeminsingin’. Staff will be on hand to chat to visitors about the history and work of the museum.

Why was the museum created 150 years ago?

The museum was originally called the Albert Institute for Science, Literature and Art and it was paid for by public subscription from 261 individuals. It was first occupied as a meeting place for the British Association for the Advancement of Science in September 1867 and at that time the premises were handed over to the Free Library committee. Britain’s leading architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, was commissioned to design the building as a memorial to Prince Albert.

How have you been celebrating the anniversary?

To celebrate this major landmark we have put together an exciting year-long programme of exhibitions and events highlighting the important role it has played past and present as a major cultural attraction.

What have been the major changes over the years?

The McManus was built on former marshland immediately north of the old city walls of Dundee and over the years the building has been beset by problems. However, an extensive renovation programme that took place between 2006 and 2009 brought the facility into the 21st century and provided a platform for a greatly improved visitor experience. The revitalised McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum reopened to the public on 28 February 2010.

What are the key strengths of the collections?

The city’s diverse and wide-ranging collections reflect the story of Dundee and its hinterland, and also evidence the city’s role in the rich history of Scottish art. The collections include objects of national and international significance. Dundee’s fine art, applied art and whaling industry collections have recognised status, awarded to collections of national significance by the Scottish Government. Other parts of the collection include archaeology, history, world cultures and natural history.