It Is Time We Had Our Own Museum
- 12 October 2012
A museum dedicated to commemorating the remarkable history of Rangers is one of those topics that arises routinely but has never resulted in any decisive action. Many Rangers fans over the years, perhaps after visiting Barcelona or Amsterdam, have reasonably asked-‘why does a club of our stature and with our history not have a museum of its own?’ Or perhaps this question has been prompted after an Ibrox tour during which the visitor has been told that the undeniably impressive Trophy Room still only displays a fraction of the artefacts accumulated by the club over the years. Today, The Rangers Standard begins a determined campaign in support of a museum dedicated to the history of Rangers Football Club. This article will attempt to introduce some of the associated possibilities and difficulties inherent in the creation of a museum. We hope the campaign will find widespread favour and as many fans as possible will sign our petition calling on the board to give the idea serious consideration. As the petition states: ‘We believe it is only right that a club of Rangers’ stature have a museum in order to encourage an understanding of our history and achievements. Such a project would allow Rangers to commemorate the many significant achievements in our past and benefit future generations by collecting and preserving a wide-range of historical objects.’
The National Football Museum, now based in Manchester, lists seven strategic aims which might be useful as we begin to think about the sort of functions we envision a museum fulfilling. These are summarised below:
- Collections development-developing a significant collection of objects and associated evidence connected with development of world football.
- Collections management-Protecting an important part of our cultural heritage for the benefit of all.
- Research-Conducting research based on the collections in partnership with academics and academic institutions.
- Interpretation-Interpreting the collection in an informative and an educational way primarily through exhibitions, events, publications and online resources.
- Learning and Community-Providing learning programmes for people of all ages.
- Marketing and Customer Care-Marketing the museum effectively and in accordance with visitor feedback.
- Commercial-Maximising commercial revenue to improve financial sustainability.
Taken together, these aims have the potential to radically reshape how we engage with our own history and how we allow others to interact with it. The idea of a museum was explored in an excellent article by Graham Cairns and Richard McBrearty, Curator of the Scottish Football Museum, in the ‘Setting the Standard’ (STS) document produced by Gersnet Online in 2009. Our history, it was argued, ‘deserves to be showcased, celebrated, presented and sold to the world and this could be achieved partly through the medium of a museum.’ A number of likely problems were identified including securing funding, the difficulty in making these ventures profitable and attracting visitors out with match days. I would suggest that these problems are not insurmountable and certainly not sufficient to dismiss the idea without serious investigation. In response to the final problem, for example, it might be noted that Ibrox is already reasonably well served by public transport and this is likely to increase if the old train station is reopened as part of the proposed G51 project. In addition, City Sightseeing Glasgow buses already stop at the nearby Glasgow Science Centre. Linking up with the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and other tourism bodies should be a vital strategic aim. The authors of STS article concluded by making the following sensible recommendations:
- Club to liaise with Scottish National Football Museum to investigate own project.
- Club to study existing successful foreign models.
- Club to found new ‘Rangers Historical Society’ made up of former players and committed fans.
- Club to investigate any sources of external funds and help from local authority sources.
As with any extracurricular activity in the current economic climate, money is likely to be the biggest issue. This will obviously be even more relevant in our case given recent financial woes. The National Football Museum originally cost £15 million when it was opened in 2001. The Heritage Lottery Fund provided £9.3 million and the North West Regional Development Agency provided 2.6 million. Contributions were also forthcoming from the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Trust. To facilitate the move to Manchester, the City Council provided £2 million p.a. for a minimum of 10 years and also underwrote a further £8.5 million of capital funding. Just under £4 million in additional funding was secured from the European Regional Development Fund. In an attempt to bolster income, the museum is also marketed as potential venue for corporate events and money is also raised through sponsorship, fundraising and donations. Two points are worth stressing. First, a Rangers museum would be a smaller scale enterprise and as such wouldn’t require the same levels of funding. Second, and more importantly, it shouldn’t be assumed that the financial burden would be placed squarely on the shoulders of the club and fans. It should be possible to apply for funding from a variety of sources as illustrated above. The key might be drafting proposals that emphasise the club’s place in the culture and history of Glasgow and Scotland. The learning and community objectives will have to be clearly and genuinely conceived to ensure that the museum also functions as a social utility for the wider community.
The Rangers Fans’ Fighting Fund might become a potential source of funding. The RFFF is sitting on a substantial amount of fans’ money (over £600,000 had been raised by mid-June) raised during the spring and summer. It is understandable that those charged with administering the fund should be wary about how it is used and they are shouldering a responsibility that I don’t think many of us would relish. Furthermore, given everything that has transpired since February, there is a natural tendency to cling to the peace of mind provided by having substantial independent resources to deploy in aid of the club: for Rangers fans, the future is likely to look precarious for a long time to come. But it might be suggested that the money currently in the bank, if reported accurately, would be more than enough to pay for any legal fees but too small to decisively influence another insolvency event. If neither of these scenarios comes to pass then serious consideration will have to be given to what to do with the money but if the fund can be kept intact then it has the potential to be a fantastic resource. A reconceptualised RFFF might become a sort of Rangers investment bank or grant-giving body that could help towards the purchase of a new supporters’ bus or support a conference bringing together all the great Rangers writers we now have. I would like to think that a museum project would be able to secure a financial contribution from the RFFF without causing too much controversy, particularly if it could be demonstrated that the idea had considerable support. It would, however, be incumbent on supporters of the idea to make a convincing case and provide the RFFF committee with peace of mind.
Creating a museum is a task of considerable magnitude. The project is going to require substantial financial backing, a diverse range of expertise and collaboration with a number of private and public bodies. All of this will have to be underpinned by determination, imagination and not a little enthusiasm. But before that we have to bring the basic premise to the attention of Green and others. This will require marshalling a groundswell of support and we feel a petition is the simplest way of achieving this objective. Furthermore, we aim to have a number of articles in the coming weeks advocating for the idea. It is our hope that our friends on other websites and podcasts and in various supporters groups will support the campaign however they see fit.
Despite the obvious challenges, we feel that this is a project that has the potential to galvanise the fan base and significantly enhance the experience of following Rangers. Our petition argues: ‘At a time when many are trying to detach us from our history, we feel a museum would be a tangible expression of both continuity and the importance we place on links to past generations of players and fans.’ We hope that you are inspired to sign today.