THE Burrell Collection museum, situated in Pollok Park in the Southside of Glasgow, is one of the jewels in the cultural crown of Scotland’s biggest city. Originally opened in 1983, it closed in the autumn of 2016 for a major, £68.25 million redevelopment.

Now, almost six years later, the museum – which houses the extraordinary personal collection of art works and artefacts amassed by the Scottish shipping magnate Sir William Burrell and his wife, Lady Constance Burrell – has reopened to an expectant public. Safe to say, its eagerly anticipated relaunch has been an unalloyed success.

Thanks to the work of architects John McAslan + Partners, a third more of the museum’s space has now been made available to the public. Now exhibiting on three levels, the redeveloped building boasts a new, visually breathtaking central staircase and seating area where visitors can access the lower level of the museum or view film material on a huge video screen.

The National: The new central staircase at the Burrell CollectionThe new central staircase at the Burrell Collection

The museum’s mezzanine level has been transformed brilliantly, with considerably increased exhibition space and an area where visitors can use tables and chairs to work or have a picnic. The outside areas around the building have been modified impressively, too.

At the back of the museum, along the length of the famous glass wall that looks onto the woodland of Pollok Park, there is now a pathway for those who are taking a walk in the forest. At night the paths around the building are illuminated by columns of subtle lighting.

Visitors to the Burrell have always marvelled at the glass wall, its forest view and its openness to natural light. That light floods a grand exhibition room that hosts such favourites as the 15th-century Figure of a Luohan from Ming Dynasty China and Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of the head of the writer Balzac.

The architects have maintained this important aspect of the museum, whilst elsewhere opening the building up to much more natural light. As you walk around the new Burrell, you are struck – on a splendidly sunny day like last Wednesday – by the interplay between the architecture and the light from outside.

Standing in the central hall that hosts the enormous, Ancient Roman artefact known as the Warwick Vase, one marvelled at the criss-cross of shadows cast from the glass ceiling across the regal, stone archway that leads to the main exhibition space. A new, glass frontage, including a new entrance, complete with automatic sliding door, has been added to the building (although those who wish to access the museum via the original, grand stone and wood entrance can continue to do so).

The collection itself – which was built by Sir William and Lady Constance Burrell together, and gifted by them to the people of Glasgow in 1944 – has been given a new and ingenious setting. Self-described “experience design agency” Event has created a superb array of immersive and interactive audio-visual works to enhance the art works and artefacts on show.

For example, in the Makers Galleries, there are videos in which artists and craftspeople exhibit and explain their professional practices. Touch screens offer access to detailed images and explanatory information.

Operating in 10 languages – including British Sign Language, Urdu and Gàidhlig – Event’s interactive screens offer tremendous, educational fun for children. One particular delight is an audio-visual game called Where’s My Hat?, in which children (or, indeed, adults) are invited by characters from paintings to choose the correct piece of missing headgear.

The National: Pictured are Children from the Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten looking at a new interactive digital displayPictured are Children from the Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten looking at a new interactive digital display

There are also large-scale projection works, which are integrated beautifully into the collection. The stunning, 17th-century Chahar-Bagh carpet, from modern day Iran, for instance, is illustrated by lovely animations of a tranquil, Persian garden.

A wall of paintings of flowers – including works by Manet and Peploe – has the pictures down low, for easy viewing by children. On Wednesday, the animated flowers that swirl around the paintings proved to be a magnet for a group of noticeably entranced nursery school kids.

The gift the Burrells bestowed upon Glasgow is considered one of the great acts in the history of cultural benefaction. Indeed, it is comparable to the famous bequest of the Armenian oil merchant and refugee Calouste Gulbenkian, whose grateful, posthumous donation to the Portuguese people continues to fund artistic endeavours in Portugal and beyond.

IN recognition of the fact that the Burrells’ gift keeps on giving to the people of Glasgow, and to arts lovers from all over the world, Event has created a series of informative video displays about the family and the history of their remarkable collection.

There’s a surprisingly tactile dimension to the renovated Burrell, too. In days gone by, museums tended to be characterised by signs demanding that we “do not touch”.

In the new Burrell, however, one is invited to touch elements of the displays in various parts of the building. At the Warwick Vase, for instance, we are given the opportunity to lay our hands on fragments of marble, so that we can get a tactile sense of the material from which the artefact is made.

Needless to say – exceptional though the architectural and audio-visual interventions that have been made at the Burrell are – the star of the show remains the collection itself. It is wonderful to have such an extraordinary, diverse and, indeed, world class series of art works and artefacts back on display, and in such glorious surroundings.

For an old friend of the museum, such as myself, it was a great pleasure to be reunited with such favourites as Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, Cezanne’s painting Chateau de Medan and Degas’s Portrait of Edmond Duranty, not to mention the great Islamic ceramics or the fantastic objects from Egypt and China.

The new museum also integrates into the building the glorious panels of stained glass that are a noted part of the collection. These include the beautifully maintained piece depicting Princess Cecily from 15th-century England.

The National: Millar and Hazel Hay were impressedMillar and Hazel Hay were impressed

A straw poll of visitors leaving the Burrell on Wednesday found the redeveloped museum was a very palpable and universal hit. Hazel Hay was visiting the Burrell with her husband Millar, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The couple are long-standing enthusiasts for the museum. Millar considers the reopened Burrell to be “outstanding”.

Hazel agrees. “It’s fabulous,” she says. She is impressed by the museum’s integration of new architecture and audio-visual work with the well-known works in the collection.

“It’s very user friendly and accessible,” she says. “It’s nice for kids, too. It’s very hands-on, in a way that it wasn’t before.

“I think it’s money well spent,” Hazel comments, adding, with a laugh, “and I don’t often say that.”

Friends and neighbours Jelena Kerr and Helen Burn, who live in the Southside of Glasgow, not far from the museum, were visiting with their babies Lewis and Annie. Jelena (who is originally from Latvia, but has lived in Scotland for the last 17 years) was particularly interested to see the changes to the famous building itself.

The National: Jelena Kerr, left (with Lewis in the buggy), and Helen Burn (with Annie in the buggy)Jelena Kerr, left (with Lewis in the buggy), and Helen Burn (with Annie in the buggy)

“I was mainly here to admire the interiors and the architecture side of it,” she explains. She is impressed by the modifications that have been made. The new Burrell is, she says, simply “beautiful”.

As the mother of an infant, Jelena looks forward to her little one exploring the interactive element within the museum. “I can’t wait to get Lewis to try it all out,” she comments. “We stay locally, so I think we’ll be back here a lot.”

Although Helen, who is originally from England, has lived in Glasgow for nine years, this was her first visit to the Burrell. “I just wanted to check it out,” she says.

“I knew about the museum, but I’d never been in before,” she confesses. “I was interested to see what it’s like inside.”

The much-admired glass wall at the back of the museum, with its view into the forest of Pollok Park, was a highlight for Helen. “It’s lovely,” she comments.

She enjoyed the contrasts between “the concrete walls, the artefacts and the nature outside.” The largest gallery in the museum is, she says, “a really beautiful space.”

As a first-time visitor, Helen noted the diversity of the collection. “It’s lovely to see stuff from different parts of the world,” she says.

She is looking forward to bringing baby daughter Annie to the museum when she gets a bit older. That said, even as a babe in arms, Annie seemed to enjoy her visit to the Burrell.

“She was absolutely loving it,” says Helen. “It was very calming. There’s lots to see. It’s a very nice environment to bring kids of any age, I think.”

Ronnie Dawson, also from Glasgow, was another first-time visitor to the museum, albeit an unlikely one. Although he was born and bred in the city, and has lived in Glasgow off-and-on since his childhood in the 1950s, he never got round to visiting the museum until now.

The National: Ronnie Dawson finally visited the museumRonnie Dawson finally visited the museum

“It’s absolutely fantastic, it’s a wonderful building,” he says. Not only that, he explains, but his first visit to the Burrell took him back to an amazing discovery he made in his teenage years.

In 1969, when he was 16 years of age, Ronnie worked as an apprentice in a workshop on Duke Street in the East End of Glasgow. He remembers an elderly man who used to come into the shop to show him how to operate the lathes and other equipment.

“One day he comes in,” Ronnie recalls, “and he says, ‘Ronnie, give me a hand here. Move this big cupboard.’ So, we moved the cupboard out of the way and went downstairs, and it was full of paintings, books, statues, you name it.”

Those art works and artefacts are, Ronnie says, “in this place now”. It’s a fascinating claim, and one that the curators at Glasgow Museums will, no doubt, be keen to explore.

Aside from rediscovering objects that he first saw in a Dennistoun basement 53 years ago, Ronnie was amazed by the opulence of the works purchased by the Burrells. “This collection must be worth billions,” he comments.

LIKE so many visitors, he found himself drawn particularly to the artefacts from north Africa and east Asia. “I like the Egyptian and Chinese stuff, and the weapons and all that,” he says.

Ronnie was also impressed by the interactive and audio-visual work that now supplements the collection. “I was watching a video of a woman working on a sculpture with her hammer and chisel, and I thought ‘I really appreciate it now’.

“I like a craftsman,” he continues. “I like to do a job and do the best I can. The videos in there show you professionals.”

A belated newcomer to the Burrell, Ronnie’s enthusiastic assessment will be music to the ears of everyone involved in the relaunch of this great museum: “I love this place,” he says. “I’ll definitely be back again.”

The Burrell Collection is open seven days a week (hours vary). For further information, visit: