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Museum’s ‘Dark Secret’ 2006-07-17

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe, Glasgow, Humanities, Intolerance, Scotland.

The dark secret of one of Scotland’s most famous museums has been revealed.

  • An autographed photograph of Adolf Hitler was hidden behind a bookcase for more than 70 years. The 600mm-high, card-mounted black and white portrait of the fascist dictator was discovered during the refurbishment of Glasgow’s popular Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, secreted between a bookcase and a wall in a back office.

    But museum officials say they have no idea when or why the portrait was placed there and confirmed they have no plans to put it on display.

The Victorian attraction recently underwent a 27.9 million GBP refurbishment which involved clearing out back rooms for the first time in decades.

The only clue to how the card-mounted portrait got to the museum is an inscription in German that reads: ‘To Sir Daniel Stephenson, Best wishes Adolf Hitler’, dated 1933-10-23.

Mr.Stephenson was a leading civic figure in Glasgow in the early years of the 20th century. He was Lord Provost of Glasgow between 1911 and 1914 and Chancellor of Glasgow University 1934. He was also heavily involved with the promotion of educational links between Scottish and European universities, including those in Germany in the inter-war period, at which time he is believed to have accepted the gift. In 1933-10, Hitler had been Chancellor of Germany for nine months after leading his Nazi Party to power.

Mr.Tobias Capwell
, the museum’s curator of arms and armour, said he had been attempting to piece together parts of the mystery since finding the photograph. He said:

‘I realised immediately that it looked very much like the sort of photograph that Hitler was known to give to visiting dignitaries. The assumption would be that Stephenson possibly made a trip to Germany in 1933 as part of his education initiatives, in a high level diplomatic capacity, and was given it as a gift then.

‘The mystery still remains though as to how it got into the Kelvingrove and where it came from. We have no record at all of how it came to be in the gallery because normally each individual piece is logged in.

‘That has not happened here.’

Capwell says there is little question that the piece is real:

‘I authenticated it myself; there are many examples of Hitler’s signature still in circulation so it was fairly straightforward to verify it. It was quite chilling actually — it was signed with a quill pen and when I first saw it, it was almost like Hitler’s hand was still on it somehow.’

The photograph is now in storage at Glasgow Museums’ Resource Centre at Nitshill and there are no plans to put it on display.

Mr.Capwell said he made no apologies for the Kelvingrove’s decision not to hang it.

‘It was found at a very late stage in the process of organising the new display,’ he said.

‘Besides, with over 1.4 million objects in our reserve collection and with only room for 8 000 pieces on display we have to make choices based on the criteria of what people will find the most interesting.’

The art gallery and museum re-opened to the public last Tuesday 2006-07-11, after its multimillion-pound refurbishment.


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