{Scotland} Rail Road Disasters, Wild Animals & Silly Moustaches – Exploring the McManus in Dundee

January 25, 2016

Kids in Museums, Scotland

Happy Burns Night everyone! Since today is the day we celebrate Scotland’s national bard, I thought it would be appropriate to share another Scottish museum with you. When we visited our friend in Dundee during our family holiday last Autumn, we took the kids to the McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum. It was also my first time there, or indeed at any museum in Dundee.

McManus Dundee

After a morning of travelling, we started out with lunch in the excellent café – generous size portions and gluten free options included – then headed to the galleries. We knew we wouldn’t manage to see the whole museum, so we decided to take it in turns to pick and choose.

McManus Dundee - Tay Whale

I thought that ‘The Making of Modern Dundee’ would be a good place to start. After all, this was our first family visit here, so it was a good starting point to finding out a bit more about the city. The gallery explores the development of Dundee from the 1850s to the present day, including key events from history as well as things that Dundee is famous for, as is dominated by the ‘Tay Whale’. #MuseumBoy enjoyed all the historical recordings and video footage, from Dundee’s heydey as a port and shipping town.

McManus Dundee - shipping history

He was also very fascinated with the story of the Tay Bridge disaster, where the bridge collapsed during a violent storm in 1879, plunging the train that was passing over it on its way to Dundee in to the depths of the river below. He was talking about it days later. And he was thrilled to discover Dennis the Menace – larger than life – being such a fan of the Beano.

McManus Dundee - Tay Bridge

McManus Dundee - Dennis the Menace

The gallery even had something for our little #MuseumBaby – Dundee is known, among other things, for its jute production, and there were some material samples for visitors to touch and feel.

McManus Dundee - touching jute

The next gallery we went to, was ‘Landscapes and Lives’, because #MuseumBoy wanted to “see the animals”. The gallery covers the creation of Dundee’s natural landscape, and also includes the an exploration of the lives of early people and the development of what was once a settlement in to the Burgh of Dundee. But the animals were definitely his favourite here.

McManus Dundee - Animal Gallery

Finally, our friend wanted to show us the ‘Victoria Gallery’, where you can find densely hung historic paintings dating from the mid 18th to the early 20th century. With its curved red walls, vaulted glass ceiling and ornamental plasterwork, the architecture of the gallery is an exhibit in itself. There was a touchscreen, where you could find out more about the individual paintings, and of course #MuseumBoy was drawn to this like a moth to the light.

McManus Dundee - Victoria Gallery

McManus Dundee - MuseumBaby

But we also encouraged him to have a good look at the paintings themselves by setting him little challenges, such as counting all the Highland cows he could find, deciding which portrait had the silliest moustache, or choosing his favourite painting in the gallery to hang up at home (he chose ‘All Around the Choral Waters Sand, by William McTaggart, 1902 – possibly influenced by the fact we had spent a few days with Granny by the beach, prior to our visit to Dundee). He had great fun, and I was once again assured that museums don’t have to be all bells and whistles to get children engaged. Sometimes a good old game of ‘i spy’ will do just as well!

McManus Dundee - counting cows

McManus Dundee - silliest moustache

McManus Dundee - Favourite Painting

The McManus is open daily year round, except for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Admission is free and there is free WiFi available in the building. Up to date visitor information, including opening times, can be found on the museum website.

McManus Dundee - Art Cart

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  1. {#100museums} No.3 – The McManus in Dundee | Museum Diary - February 11, 2016

    […] We followed lunch with some art. The McManus’ current special exhibition ‘Draw the Line: Old Masters to the Beano’ showcases “a vast and all encompassing range of creativity” around the medium and techniques of drawing. It’s running until Autumn 2016. The adjacent Victoria Gallery, with its curved red walls, in contrast offers a juxtaposition of historic oil paintings. You can read more about the Victoria Gallery and our visit to The McManus with the #MuseumBrothers, in my previous post >> Rail Road Disasters, Wild Animals & Silly Moustaches – Exploring the McManus in Dundee […]

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