In his former role as Deputy Curator of Glasgow's People's Palace Museum, Michael was responsible for initiating Scotland's first exhibition of Victorian stained glass. Called simply 'Glasgow's Stained Glass' this exhibition grew naturally out of a programme of recording, rescue, and conservation, conducted by Michael Donnelly in response to the redevelopment and demolition programme of the mid 1970s and early 1980s. The exhibition established for the first time, Glasgow's unique role as a national and international centre of excellence for this important architectural art.

The exhibition consisted of 25 works in glass and several hundred sketch designs. The exhibition and its publication was awarded the first prize in the temporary exhibitions category of the European Museum of the Year Awards for 1982.
Oscar Paterson, The Quaint Village
Glasgow University Collection
Daniel Cottier, Art and Audacity
Cairndhu, Helensburgh
J & W Guthrie, Tulips

The success of the exhibition and the steady acquisition and display of new works led to the creation in 1989 of The Cottier Gallery, a permanent area for a rotating selection from the collection which had grown to some 200 panels, several thousand sketch designs, cartoons, glazing tables and antique glass. Project sponsored by Bovis and UCATT. Demolished 1990 by Mark O'Neill and Julian Spalding, the collection was then consigned to store where it has remained ever since.

Michael Donnelly has continued his research on and recording of Scottish stained glass and in 1997 published Scotland's Stained Glass (see books page).

He is widely recognised as the leading authority on the subject, and in 2000 established the first comprehensive lecture course on Scottish and international stained glass at the University of Strathclyde. Many volunteers for the Scottish Churches Survey and NADFAS have become his students.

As a consultant Michael has advised such bodies as National Trust and Historic Scotland. It was on his advice that St. John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh undertook their extensive conservation scheme for the stained glass, rather than removing it. He has also rescued windows of significance for Abbot House, Dunfermline, and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and commissioned the contemporary stained glass in both places.
Stirling Smith Funder's Windows by GlasWorks
Smith Windows by GlasWorks
Virginia Colley's mural at Abbot House
Livilands Sybil, one of a series of 6
painted by Michael Donnelly

From 1978-1990, Michael Donnelly rescued glass from the following church buildings, for the People's Palace collections:
Springburn Old Parish Church
St Kenneth, Govan
Partick Anderson
St. Mary's Partick
Whiteinch Methodist Church
Sighthill Parish Church
St. Ninian's Wynd
Bridgeton Parish Church
St. Andrew's by the Green
Blackfriar's Dennistoun
Trinity Church, Charlotte Street
Trinity Church, Dennistoun
Christian Institute
Regent Place Church
Trinity Claremont
Woodlands Church
Glencairn Parish Church
Auldfield Parish Church
Balgray Hill Church
Townhead Parish Church
Barony Parish
Partick Old Parish
Woodlands Parish
Queen's Cross (Charles Rennie Mackintosh)
Panels showing Protestant leaders
of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Rescued from the Christian Institute, Glasgow.
Displayed 1989-1995 in the People's Palace.