It has undergone a £69million revamp and attracted more than half a million visitors in just 10 months, but it is a museum which was previously criticised as not being held in the affections of the people of Glasgow, while internationally recognised as world class.

Along with his wife, Constance, Lady Burrell, shipping magnate Sir William Burrell amassed one of the world’s greatest personal art collections. It was renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained glass, intricate tapestries as well as its breadth of fine art.

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And tomorrow the Burrell Collection celebrates its first anniversary since reopening to the public after the major refurbishment and new figures reveal that almost half (47percent) of visitors are from outwith the UK.

Read more: First look inside Glasgow's Burrell Collection after £69m revamp

For the newly appointed Keeper of the Burrell, Dr Samuel Gallacher, he says this isn’t something to be dismissive of, but to be proud of.

Dr Gallacher said: “We want to find a real civic role for the Burrell Collection – stimulating and supporting Glasgow’s creative economy as well as a cultural destination. That international profile comes into it. This is a very unique collection and building an international profile is very important for the collection’s future.”

HeraldScotland: Samuel Gallacher, the newly appointed Keeper of the Burrell Collection. Photo by Colin Mearns.Samuel Gallacher, the newly appointed Keeper of the Burrell Collection. Photo by Colin Mearns. (Image: Newsquest)

He noticed a gallery assistant was speaking to a visitor recently in Urdu which impressed the visiting family.

“They were very impressed at being spoken to in their own language and used one of our video interpretation screens, which tells you how something has been made or the origin of the object. They are available in nine different languages including Urdu. The visitor left a note at the end and said they had never been more welcome in a museum,” added Mr Gallacher.

Since the refurbishment visitor numbers for those from the Greater Glasgow area have been strong at 38%, 9% for the rest of Scotland and 5% for the rest of the UK. While 74 % of visitors are first time visitors.

Mr Gallacher added: “It is an interesting balance between a local Glasgow audience of those are engaged and feel this is their museum and a much more international audience that is coming in. I think that is reflective of how much of an impact the museum has made in the foreign press. We have seen it reflects on who is using the number of different language options on our screens. This is a local museum with an international reputation and that is very powerful. Many museums would crave what we are able to do here and have that balance.”

HeraldScotland: Burrell Collection reopened to the public in March 2022Burrell Collection reopened to the public in March 2022 (Image: Colin Mearns)

While new in position, Mr Gallacher is no stranger to the Burrell and its team. In his previous role as Glasgow Operations Manager for the National Trust for Scotland he liaised previously with Burrell project team and felt there was something special.

“This museum is something and was changing the approach to art museums. It seemed to me that it was going to be a flagship not just for Glasgow but how museums are presented in the future,” he said.

“There is an exhibition with floral decorations along the picture frame which draw people in and move with them. In a museum object you are lucky if people spend two to three seconds on an object, but here people are spending 10 seconds or more. It might not sound a lot but for museums that is real engagement.

“One of the real success stories of the Burrell has been being able to find relevance for people coming in about historic art objects. You have eye catching labels, many aimed at a younger audience, tactile objects which is a big change for an art museum which is really breaking new ground.”

One of the changes was the digitisation of exhibits built into the refurbishment of the Burrell and an app is constantly being developed which offer audio and visual tours.

“The Burrell is an outstanding building and a powerful museum. You get the wow factor and walk around it and it feels like you are having a meaningful experience. That sense of beauty is important and the original concept of Barry Gasson about reconnecting nature with the north gallery which brings in so much light. As a space within a beautiful park it is quite unique,” added Mr Gallacher.

Read more: Glasgow's Burrell Collection hits 500,000 visitors after £69m revamp

Art historian and former Assistant Director of the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Mr Gallacher is the fifth keeper of the Burrell, and he says: “I love it – it is a very romantic title. The first keeper was Andrew Hannah who was instrumental in bringing the collection from Hutton Castle, the Burrell’s Borders home.

“Part of the first job of the Keeper was to bring together the first exhibition which was at the McLellan Galleries. It is a big effort to manage a museum like the Burrell Collection, but it is a team effort with a collaboration with a range of experts – technicians, conservators, curators, learning and access and benefiting from being part of the Glasgow Life family."

HeraldScotland: Glasgow's Burrell Collection celebrates one year since reopeningGlasgow's Burrell Collection celebrates one year since reopening (Image: Newsquest)

He added: “We need to keep building on the legacy of the project and that we don’t lose momentum as I think it has a lot more to offer the city of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole. I think we need to keep expanding approaches and experimentation and keep challenging ourselves. All museums are at danger of stagnation and I don’t think we can ever be complacent.

I think part of my role is to help us to keep evolving. There is a lot more to discover about our collection. We only have one fully complete catalogue and that is on tapestries, but there is a lot more research to be undertaken. People are very hungry for the collection and I think we have created a space which means it inspires, excites and people went to come back.”