AN extraordinary row has broken out between the Riverside Museum, Scotland's newest visitor attraction success, and a leading figure who was one of a select number of its academic advisers.

Dugald Cameron OBE, a former director of Glasgow School of Art and an eminent figure in the UK art and design field, has publicly described the new transport museum’s exhibits, and the way in which they are displayed, as being a “bit dumbed-down”.

But Glasgow Life, which runs Riverside of behalf of Glasgow City Council, said his claim reflected a “snobbish desire to reserve the collection for people who think themselves experts”.

Cameron was part of a seven-strong academic advisory panel invited to contribute its expertise to the museum’s display development.

In addition to publishing and speaking widely on Glasgow’s railway and aviation history, he said he had supported Riverside in many ways, though he was concerned that this would now “seem to be unwanted”.

He said he had voiced his growing concerns about the museum to its managers but to no great effect, “so, at the risk of offending some of those I have come to know, I feel compelled to make public my considered views now that Riverside is open”.

The Zaha Hadid-designed venue has, in just three weeks, attracted 245,000 visitors -- a quarter of the total originally expected to visit in its first year -- to see its 3000 exhibits in more than 150 interactive displays.

Cameron said: “The building itself and its historic setting is splendid, but I think that the exhibition, and the way it has been handled, is a bit dumbed-down.

“I don’t think the exhibition design is satisfactory at all -- it seems to be [more] visual effect than scholarly effort. It seems to me to be an incoherent exhibition. It would be better with fewer exhibits.

“Surely the public has a right to expect that what is presented to them is true and significant in relation to the exhibit?”

He criticised the absence of the 1938 Coronation tram, the “most significant one of the five that Glasgow has, and the only one that is not on display, which would suggest that this wasn’t understood by the people [behind the museum].”

He went on: “I’m particularly interested in railways and aviation, and a replica of Percy Pilcher’s famous glider is on display -- but the caption ignores various key facts, including Pilcher’s achievement, with his well researched and constructed Bat Mark II glider, in making the first repeated heavier-than-air flights in the United Kingdom. Now that is a more important fact than saying where he might have built the glider, I should have thought.

“I think it’s patronising to say to people, ‘Look, we don’t think you can understand these things properly’. The captions at Riverside are aimed very much, I think, at a juvenile audience, but that doesn’t mean they should be juvenile in my view.

“There’s no mention, for example, of the fact that Pilcher carried out glider experiments at Cardross in 1895. That is historically significant and is something that Glasgow should be proud of.

“Even the way the glider is displayed, with its nose down, is incorrect -- it doesn’t fly like that, not even when descending.”

He described as “nonsense” the fact that some car exhibits are stacked high on walls at the museum, and bicycles are displayed upside down, commenting: “On the whole, bikes don’t work very well when they are upside down.”

He praised the museum’s replica Victorian street, but said: “Perhaps the saddest feature in my view is the way the ship models have been displayed, in two big lumps, but you are looking underneath them. You cannot see round them, which is the whole point.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Life said: “Riverside has around 140,000 words explaining the thousands of historic objects, films and photographs on display, vastly more than the former Museum of Transport.

“We are always willing to discuss criticism and to correct any mistakes. To describe the years of work of some of the most dedicated curators, historians and interpretive experts in the country as ‘dumbed down’ reflects a refusal to understand the role of a public museum.

“It expresses a snobbish desire to reserve the collection for people who think themselves experts and is an insult to everyone who has visited and enjoyed the museum.

“The introductory texts in Riverside assume no prior knowledge, but there are more detailed secondary texts for people who have more background.”