A new director has taken over Renfrewshire Museums and says he looks forward to telling the story of his home region’s proud past while helping to shape a vibrant future.
Neil Ballantyne started working as a Museums and Collections Manager at the Renfrewshire Museums Service, which is part of Renfrewshire Leisure, the charity that runs cultural venues in the region and is responsible for its world-renowned collections.
He joins a moment of unprecedented investment, with work including the £ 42million transformation of the Paisley Museum – and just weeks after playing a role in helping world leaders and royalty welcome into the framework of the COP26 in Glasgow.
Dr Ballantyne, who grew up in Houston, said, “It’s exciting. The ambition and vision of Renfrewshire Leisure and the Renfrewshire Council are to be truly commended. I hope to help make it a success.
He moved to Renfrewshire Leisure after 13 years with Glasgow Life as director of Kelvingrove – a role that has seen him be part of a team that welcomes over a million visitors a year while overseeing a wide range of large-scale and successful exhibitions and events which also recently covered the People’s Palace and the Sainte Mongoose Museum.
And he says it was the chance to use his experience to be a part of big events in Renfrewshire that drew him to his new job.
The transformed Paisley Museum is set to open in 2023. It is expected to attract 125,000 visits per year – four times its pre-revision number – and generate an economic boost of £ 79million over 30 years. The Paisley Museum Re-Imagined is the flagship project of Renfrewshire Council’s £ 100million regeneration program in the city.
Dr Ballantyne said: “While working in Glasgow I have heard and seen how the city has regenerated itself through culture. I started to hear people talk about Paisley’s vision in the same way.
“I was obviously aware of Paisley’s candidacy for the City of Culture, and then I heard about the plans for the museum. Colleagues were talking about how Paisley is building his vision by working with the community. It really got me noticed.
“The fact that it’s Paisley was also a factor. I have a history with the place. The first toy store I remember going to was under the Gilmour Street railroad bridge. When I started buying records it was at Stereo One on Moss Street.
“Culture will play a major role in the regeneration of Paisley. It’s going to be really interesting to be a part of this.
Dr Ballantyne, 56, whose mother Maisie Ballantyne is well-known as the former Houston Elementary School secretary for 32 years, hopes to use her personal experiences to help spread the story of her home region.
In addition to showcasing art, science and natural history collections, the transformed museum will tell the story of the Paisley motif, the city’s famous weavers and being at the center of the global yarn-making industry. .
“I really look forward to the chance to help the Paisley Museum grow and become a place where the people of Renfrewshire feel welcome – and proud. I hope it will not only be a place that tells the fascinating story of our past, but also an important part of our present, ”he added.
“We have collections of international significance and there are still many stories to tell. I am learning things all the time.
“One of the things I hope to do is help bring people from outside Paisley to Paisley. When I was at school in Houston, I don’t remember any trip to Paisley. I would like schools to settle naturally in the museum.
Renfrewshire Leisure officials welcomed Dr Ballantyne to his post.
Kirsty Devine, Paisley Museum Reimagined Project Director, said: “We are delighted that Neil is joining the team. He brings the perfect combination of extensive experience in the museum sector as well as great local knowledge. This will undoubtedly prove to be invaluable as we develop both a world-class museum and a community resource at the heart of the city’s regeneration.
Just a few weeks ago, Dr Ballantyne’s previous role – as director of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow – saw him be part of the team that hosted world leaders, including the US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the venue.
“I was responsible for the museum team inside the venue for the reception of heads of state. We had 120 world leaders and four royals there, ”he explained.
“It was a huge job, with a huge team involved. There were 1,200 police officers outside Kelvingrove that night.
“It was interesting, exciting and at times a little scary – a great event and experience to be had.”
Prior to embarking on his career in the museum industry, Dr Ballantyne served in the military for three years from the age of 17, as a tank gunner and driver in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.