A Sneak Peak Inside V&A Dundee

Lynsey Anderson, Vice President of SMF, writes in our latest blog about her trip for a special preview of the newly opened V&A Dundee. 

After years of anticipation and excitement, today the V&A Dundee opens it doors to the public for the very first time! Two members of the SMF committee were lucky enough to get a sneak peak so of course we wanted to share it with you.

Arrival
Arrival

Sitting right on the River Tay and next to the magnificent RRS Discovery, the spectacular building, designed by Kengo Kuma, calls itself Dundee’s living room and what an incredible living room it is! Packed full of style, 300 interesting exhibits, touch tables and interactives and with an exhibition space I am incredibly jealous of, it most definitely has the ‘wow factor’.

Shop and cafe
Shop and cafe

Walking inside for the first time was quite a feeling, as David said, ‘it smells new’ and it looked so shiny! The design (understandably for a design museum) is fab. With a classy yet colourful shop, a café and a big window where you can see the waves almost as if you are in the river, the first floor sets the scene, but it is the galleries and learning spaces upstairs that are the real heart of the museum.

The Scottish Design Galleries showcases design in its widest sense from C18th Jacobite targes through jewellery and clothing to medical designs and Lemmings, the video game.

Jacobite design
Jacobite design

Not to mention the much talked about Charles Rennie Mackintosh ‘Oak Room’ which has been lovingly conserved, not without difficulty (apparently it was very hard to replicate some of the designs even with today’s technology). My personal highlights were the Paolozzi elephant and a costume, designed by Glasgwegian designer, Trisha Biggar, worn by Padme (Natalie Portman) in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (only on display for 6 months so if you love Star Wars like me go soon!).

The Padmé dress from Star Wars
The Padmé dress from Star Wars

What was also great was seeing objects loaned by museums and galleries across Scotland, showcasing the strength of the Scottish sector’s collections and the great support and collaboration.

A wood and plaster model of the Scott Monument on loan from Edinburgh Museum and Galleries
A wood and plaster model of the Scott Monument on loan from Edinburgh Museum and Galleries

On hearing their opening exhibition was going to be about Ocean Liners I have to say I was a little sceptical, but it certainly is beautiful. As you go through the door you are greeted by the sound of waves and seabirds and the lighting is stunning creating a relaxing wave effect against the walls. Some of the displays, particularly the one showcasing swimwear fashion, are very clever and the details of the ocean liners are incredible.

Swimwear Display
Swimwear Display

For me, the standout object is the largest remaining fragment of the Titanic.  Plus *spoiler alert* you end the visit with some film clips featuring ocean liners including, you guessed it, Titanic. However, understandably it is quite a dark space so it can be a little hard to read the labels.

There is also a smaller exhibition which showcases the work the V&A have been doing across Scotland developing designs with groups of young people as part of the Scottish Design Relay #VADrelay. It seems clear that nurturing the future of design and opening it up to all is a key focus of the new V&A.

Scottish Design Relay display
Scottish Design Relay display

With an ongoing Designer in Residence programme (with a public-facing studio), a resource centre and a new learning suite, the space and the speeches make it clear that this is a place aiming to inspire the imagination. It was fantastic to hear the belief that ‘museums can and do make a difference’ (as we all know), and that V&A Dundee will strive to be a changemaker, an outward-facing museum for all – I, for one, can’t wait to see what they do to fulfil these promises!

A Living Room for the City
A Living Room for the City

I hope you all get a chance to see it soon (before it loses its new smell)! And if not, don’t worry – we are looking to run a Scottish Museums Federation pop-up there in the new year!

V&A Dundee opens Saturday 15th September 2018. The weekend opening event is sold out and gerneal access will be available to the public from Monday 17th September. For more information, visit https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/

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