Meta Museum – Redefining the Case for Display

This semester we, as a group of third year and masters students, have been looking at the kinds of approaches taken in museum display. As part of the assessment for the HPS masters and undergraduate modules linked with the Museum we are working to put together an exhibition in the Gillinson Room in Michael Sadler Building. Deciding on a theme for our exhibition proved far easier than we imagined, due to Andrew Murphy’s idea that we present the different modes of display we had been studying.

Much like a novel or a song, visitors come across finished displays in museums without knowing the huge number of decisions that went into the finished piece being obvious. The words on a label, the hue of the lights, everything from the location and architecture of the building, to the object itself represents a decision, and those decisions have consequences for the visitor, museum staff and the relationships between them. In the Meta Museum we hope to place side by side some of the different approaches in the hopes that the juxtaposition will draw out the processes behind the finished display.

An early microscope from the aesthetic case.

An early microscope from the aesthetic case.

Our exhibition will be divided into five sections:

  • A didactic display on hunting
  • An aesthetic display
  • An eighteenth century cabinet of curiosities
  • A Beth Lord-style typological display of calculators
  • An emotionally evocative display of surgical knives

The design style for each section will be led by the particular design philosophy it represents. This means that the didactic display will contain an authoritative interpretation with a clearly defined message. The aesthetic display will only contain artefacts, displayed in a manner encouraging ‘wonder’. The eighteenth century cabinet will be modelled on the period, with mixed artefacts and no interpretation. The Beth Lord-style typological display will represent a particular theme, but mixed chronologies with minimal interpretation to allow the visitor to create their own meaning. Finally, the emotionally evocative display will encourage visitors to connect emotionally with the objects by encouraging a bodily rather than intellectual reaction. Despite the disparate design approaches, we will be taking care to create a commonality between all the displays to tie them together.

We have all been allocated different roles within the project to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and have provided a brief explanation of what we will be doing.

Project Manager – Andrew

Hello, I’m Andrew – project manager for the Meta Museum. In this post I’ll tell you a little of what my role has involved so far in the project. Essentially I do all the work – only kidding. Or am I? Anyway, I essentially fill two roles, organiser and overseer. The first task we tackled as a team was to stretch our foresight and create a GANT chart that would include all the tasks that needed to be completed by each team and a timeframe for it. This has acted as an organisational touchstone to keep on track over a longer period than I usually plan. The overseeing has been easy as my lovely professional team have carried me so far. Thanks guys!

Content Developers – Ellie Miller & Yasmin Stone

As content developers we research all the elements to include in the exhibition. Usually this means researching all the objects and themes explored by the exhibition. However, due to the nature of this display, as content developers we are also researching different types of techniques that are used in museums such as didactic, ascetic and the cabinet of curiosity. We work alongside a number of different people. From the Collection officers we receive the factual information of the objects in order to research these further and collaborate with the designers to produce object labels and supplementary text and information. We are also in charge of compiling a leaflet to better explain and interpret the exhibition for the visitors as well as selecting images to complement and enhance the research, information and objects.

Dog skull from the didactic case.

A dog skull from the didactic case.

 Designers – Josh Parkinson & Bryony Pollock

As the designers, we ensure that the exhibition, as a whole, has a coherent look. We have worked alongside the collections officers to choose the objects, so that the cabinets aren’t too cluttered or bare and then arranged the objects in a way that ensures they are visible. We will use various cushions and stands to accentuate the objects on display and to make the exhibition more visually appealing. The labels we have designed will have the same font and colour scheme throughout the four cabinets to link the exhibition together and will be presented clearly to ensure the viewer can access the information. We have also designed the interior of the cabinets to fit with the different themes; for example in the evocative cabinet – where the objects on display are surgical knives – we have chosen a red backdrop to give a feel of blood and gore.

Collections Officers – Katharine Crew & Robyn Haggard

As the project’s collections officers we are responsible for the objects that will be displayed. This will include ensuring that all objects which are chosen are in an appropriate condition for display and fit with the museum brief. If necessary we will be cleaning the objects, particularly those displayed in the aesthetic case to ensure their visual impact. We will also be responsible for any documentation relating to the chosen objects, such as movement forms.  Part of our role is also to ensure that the environment chosen to display the objects is suitable. This will include checking to see whether the Gillinson room is the correct temperature and has the correct levels of lighting and that the cases are secure and clean. It will also involve working with the designers to ensure any materials chosen to display the objects are inert and suitable for objects display.

Hey saw, used in craniotomy procedures, taken from the emotive case.

museum logo

In the coming weeks we will upload more information about our chosen objects and the exhibition. We will also be hosting an exhibition launch on the 13th December at 3pm in the Gillinson Room in Michael Sadler Building and hope to see you there!

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2 thoughts on “Meta Museum – Redefining the Case for Display

  1. Claire Jones

    This is brilliant and so exciting! Well done everyone for your achievements so far, I can’t wait to see the final exhibition!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Gillinson Room Project | Museum of HSTM Blog

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