In 2015, Renfrewshire in Scotland welcomed Syrian refugees to the area, as part of the UK Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
Exactly five years on, the Paisley Museum team is working closely with some of the town’s refugees, to create a modern-day response to its glass collection.
This glass collection, which dates back over 2,000, will be going on display for the first time.
Despite being held in Paisley Museum’s collections since the 1940s, the potential significance of the glassware was only recently realised. The significance was only discovered when museum objects were moved into The Secret Collection, ready for the museum’s £42m redevelopment.
All of Paisley Museum’s collections are currently held in Paisley: The Secret Collection, the only publicly accessible museum store on a UK high street. The Secret Collection is open to the public for weekly guided tours (when lockdown and tier restrictions allow), and is part Paisley’s economic regeneration through arts, culture and heritage.
So, what links this ancient collection of glass and Paisley’s Syrian community? Damascus is known as the birthplace of glass making, with glassblowing still prevalent in the region today. Started over 4,000 years ago, by 200AD Syrian glass was traded throughout Europe. The glass in the museum’s own collection was either bequeathed or purchased from local dealers in Baalbek and Damascus in the early 1900s.
Now, a partnership has formed between the museum and a group of Renfrewshire’s Syrian population. Following sessions with the museum team, including a trip to a glassblowing workshop and a visit to The Secret Collection, the group chose 13 pieces of glassware from the 2nd and 3rd century AD to go on display. The pieces chosen include a Syrian glass beaker from Damascus, a brown bulbous bottle decorated in fluorescent and gold, and a purple beaker with a dark feathered design for display.
Future sessions will involve creating interpretation for the display in both Arabic and English, which will incorporate some of the group’s personal stories.
The display will be part of the £42m redevelopment of the museum, which when it reopens, is hoping to attract upwards of 125,000 visitors each year and provide an economic boost to the area.
Since 2015 Renfrewshire has welcomed more than 160 Syrian refugees to the area. Families receive a wide range of support to settle within the area through Renfrewshire Council’s refugee resettlement scheme.
Looking for events you can enjoy now? Don’t miss this month’s Being Human festival.
Where: The Secret Collection and Paisley Museum
More info: reimagined.paisleymuseum.org