Tag Archives: exhibition planning

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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Hidden histories panel final draft

Thank you everyone for your comments, I’ve done what I can with them all, if there is still anything you strongly object to here please tell me as soon as possible.  I’m going to ask the university printer dept designers to make this look nice and ask if they can add a campus map (with the departments we have objects from highlighted) as our main illustration.

Here is the updated panel, building on from the first draft. How does everyone feel about having their name listed on the panel as part of the museum team responsible for this case?

Hidden Histories

Objects can offer the first clue and a great inspiration to explore new stories in the history of science. Here at Leeds we have recovered treasures once hidden across campus:  the camera used to take the first picture of DNA; a century-old seed tray tucked away in a now redundant teaching collection; an entire bookmaking workshop complete with papermaking, typesetting and bookbinding apparatus, to name a few.

All have interesting stories to tell.  Together they give a rare glimpse of the University’s
rich heritage, its origins as a medical school, its early days aiding the local textile industry, and its gradual transition into the institution it is today.   More than that, we get a sense of day-to-day life at the university back when these objects were used in teaching and
research.

For more information on the project or all these objects and more please see our videos on YouTube, our blog and our website.

Hidden histories panel

Here is my draft text – please comment asap, the university printers (pcb) have said they need a week to print, so I’d like to send it off on Wednesday if I possibly can.  I thought we might use a map of campus (as I think Michael Kay suggested back at one of our first meetings) as the main illustration for the panel, ideally highlighting the departments we have objects from.  If anyone would like to suggest alternatives or additions to this please say.

Just so you know, I thought we might get a free standing panel (see the free standing panels outside the language dept as an example; the printers only do one size) to stand alongside the case.  Do say if you don’t think this is a good idea.  Also please tell me if any of you have any design skills – I have the dimensions, the text (see below) and illustration ideas, but no real clue as to how to put that all together to make something that looks nice.  If I get no volunteers I may have to send it to pcb’s designer.  Anyway, here is the text (its 154words as it stands):

Hidden Histories

Objects can offer the first clue and a great inspiration to explore new stories in the history of science. Here at Leeds we have recovered treasures once hidden across campus:  the camera used to take the first picture of DNA; a tray containing century old seeds tucked away in a now redundant teaching collection; an entire bookmaking workshop complete with papermaking, typesetting and bookbinding apparatus.

Individually these objects have interesting stories to tell.  Together they give a rare glimpse of the University’s rich heritage, its origins as a medical school, its early days aiding the local textile industry, and its gradual transition to become the institution it is today.   More than that, we get the details, daily life at the University, as these objects played
their part in teaching and research.

For more information on the project or all these objects and more please see our videos on YouTube; our blog and our website.

Hidden histories intro

Please could everyone post their thoughts on their chosen object as soon as possible please?  I’m going to try and draft an introductory text panel (150words) sometime this week, and it would be really helpful to be able to refer to the objects as much as possible.

Michael suggested I did a minute film introducing the museum – using Dominic’s word count, for what might constitute a minute’s worth of film, this is what I’ve come up with.  Please let me know what you think.  Michael, when would be a good time to do this?

‘My name is Dr Emily  Winterburn and I am the curator at the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Museum at the University of Leeds.  We are a new museum, based in the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science and our collections are formed mainly out of old teaching collections – collections historically used to teach various subjects at the University and also collections used to teach school children science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The latter came to us out of the University’s former history of education museum collections.

We’re a multi-site museum which means where possible we try to display objects in the locations in which they were once used, and to work with the departments that in many cases retain ownership of those objects.

The 1 minute films that follow give a taste of what we consider to be some of our best objects.  Some are unique, some are quirky and others we think just have interesting stories to tell.  We hope you will enjoy them.’

What do you think?

UPDATE: You can view the finished 1 minute video introduction on our Youtube channel here.

Hidden histories update

Thanks everyone who came to the meeting on Wednesday, and I look forward to your posts on your chosen objects.  For those of you not there, this is what we discussed and decided, more or less.

All together we now have at least 9 objects for the case: 2 from physics (and possibly another from maths), 2 from botany/ biology/ herbarium, 1 from history of education, 1 from medicine, 1 from English, pieces from the Newlyn-Philips machine and the Astbury camera.  The plan is now for each person who chose an object to tell us about it in 4 main ways: by talking about it on camera for 1 minute, writing a catalogue entry, writing c.500wds on it on the blog and later putting this on the website linked to the catalogue entry.  And finally to reduce all that to a 30wd label for the case.

Everyone seemed pretty happy with the Hidden Histories theme, each pleasingly interpreting this theme in a different way.  The theme can be taken to mean hidden objects and collections but also hidden stories and the hidden history of the university, which it was generally felt, is not celebrated at Leeds as much as at other universities, but is interesting and a potential selling point of Leeds university.

That’s all, please watch out for (or write and post) information on all the objects so far chosen for the case.