The Street at The McManus: bygone Dundee shopping and licensed trades


15 November 2021
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Patrons at the John O'Groats, Dundee
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum is inviting visitors to take a walk down memory lane and look at the history of shopping and licensed trades in the city with their latest exhibition, The Street at The McManus.

The McManus; Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum have worked closely with Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre to provide an immersive experience. The large street set has taken over one of the galleries, where visitors can now visit a shop from days gone by and stand at the bar. They can also browse the windows of an old toy shop and pawnshop, look into the window of a shoe and furniture shop, as well as peruse fashions from yesteryear in a department store.

The shop and bar are museum favourites from the past and featured in a show called Ale an ’A’thing in 1980. They have now been updated with acquisitions made over the past 40 years. The Street has reimagined these exhibits in a setting alongside items from the city’s collections.  

Shopping in bygone Dundee

The Grocer’s shop is a reconstruction based on the interior of a traditional grocer’s shop. The public bar is made up of parts of the fittings from the John O’Groat’s and Old Toll Bar. The John O’Groat’s closed in 1967 and was located on the Cowgate. The building that housed it was known as ‘Heaven and Hell’ due to the Wishart Memorial Church located above, a place of worship for the missionary, Mary Slessor.  The Old Toll Bar stood on the corner of Gray’s Lane and Lochee High Street and closed in 1972. Also on display will be design classics from retail history. Evening dresses, handbags, Tennents cans, Clarks’ Desert Boots, a Timex watch, dolls house and early games consoles are just some of the highlights visitors can look forward to seeing.  

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With the increase of online shopping and the recent pandemic accelerating new retail habits, town centres and high streets are reshaping. The recent loss of big retailing names, along with independent retailers, in city centres across the country has highlighted the ever-changing nature of our high streets. This exhibition illustrates parallels from the past and the closure of many historical Dundee favourites such as Draffens’ and DM Browns. Dundee’s city centre has changed dramatically through the decades. The Street looks back at how shopping and hospitality have shaped our collective experience during this time.  

Moira Methven, Chair of Leisure & Culture Dundee said: “Shopping and enjoying hospitality with friends and family continue to be an important part of our identity and culture. This exhibition is a fascinating look back at how these sectors have evolved over the years. We hope everyone enjoys this exhibition, younger visitors will love being in the space, while older visitors will remember and reminisce about times gone by. The McManus staff have excelled themselves. And on behalf of Leisure & Culture Dundee I would also like to thank the team at The Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre who put a huge amount of effort into designing and building this set”  

Admission is FREE. Opening times: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30-4.40pm. For more information, visit The Dundee McManus website.