Tag Archives: Gillinson Room

Good things come in twenties (in HPS)

DSCF3548-Copy-604x1024This week my attention is turning to the contents of the Gillinson Room cases. As some of you might know, starting in January 2016, the Centre for HPS will be hosting a 20-month lecture series entitled “HPS in 20 objects”. At the risk of sounding like an advertiser; this series will use questions from HPS, along with objects from the Museum of HSTM to explore ideas and practices in science, technology and medicine from the ancient world to the present day. The lectures are for a public audience, and will assume no prior knowledge of the objects or subjects being discussed. Information about each object will be made available online, including podcasts and video recordings of each lecture. More information, dates, times etc will be posted here in the coming months: http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/museum-of-hstm/hpsi20o/

By happy coincidence the rearranging of cases in the Gillinson Room, along with the new additions brought up from the store, have given us twenty display spaces (plus two that don’t match but will have information about the museum in them). So we will be designing the displays around twenty questions asked by people working in PRHS. We will then explore *some* of the ways these questions could be addressed by our colleagues and/or how they have been tackled in the past.

The challenge now is to come up with appropriate questions which reflect the school and can be answered using our collection. Equally, if not more importantly, these objects (and the accompanying text) need to be interesting, engaging and visual. And fit into our cases – which aren’t huge.

So, a call out to staff and students working in PRHS, if there are any objects which you think are particularly representative of a field or your own work please let us know so we can think about incorporating them into the displays.


Almost there

The sanding and painting marathon is almost over in the Gillinson Room, with just a few stray splashes of paint to remove from the woodwork and some patches of paint to touch up were we’ve made nicks whilst joining the cases together (so they don’t land on someone’s head!)


We’ve started installing the lighting and are incredibly excited by the sheer range of colours and effects that we can create. The lighting will generally be white, so the true colour and textures of the objects are visible to viewers, but if the occasion arises there are a multitude of colours and lighting effects at our disposal.


The next task (once everything is sanded to perfection again) is to wax and seal all the wood work so another few days of solid elbow grease are about to commence. Once that is done, we’ll be returning to the more fiddly jobs, such as installing locks, bolts, handles, knobs and the rest of the lighting.

The joys of DIY

Beginning last week a team of museum volunteers have been tackling the manual work in the Gillinson Room, namely beautifying the rather orange 1960s units and removing the
awful (and literally sticky) varnish from the older, once lovely, case. So far, personally, I have completed six full days of sanding and, along with some of the other museum volunteers and our museum director; I estimate almost sixty hours of sanding was needed to completely strip everything back. This has had to be done by hand so has been a serious labour of love and we’re all a bit achy!

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The purpose of all this sanding was to remove all the old varnish, grime and inconsistencies on the outside of the cases and prepare the insides of the cabinets for painting. We agreed early on that the insides of the cases should be white, so objects are visible, colour can be added, lighting will look nice and the whole thing is patchable if/when we scratch it. But what to do with the outside – the initial plan was to stain them a dark colour to get rid of the orange hue but sanding has done that for the most part. The huge difference sanding has made is making us reconsider our design choices, although we have finally come to a conclusion after way to many emails discussing wood colours.


Thankfully Monday finally saw the end of our mammoth sanding task – to be replaced with the epic mission of removing all the dust we created. The hoover has taken a serious beating and I dread to think how many buckets of water Anne and I lugged through the department, but painting began on Tuesday (hurrah!) This was initially held up when we realised we had some oil-based paint and some of it was water-based but problem solved and we can crack on. By the end of the week the insides of the cabinets will be ready to be filled with objects. Or at least they would be if the doors were re-attached. This won’t be happening for a few weeks whilst we let the paint air and dry. For those of you who want to use the Gillinson Room this should be possible from next week, but please mind the pile of forty (beautifully sanded) doors and our new paint work!

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Gillinson Room Project

The Gillinson Room is changing! Not quite beyond recognition but hopefully in significant and interesting ways.


Thanks to the School’s Strategic Development Fund we will be renovating the Gillinson Room and some of the surrounding corridors. We will be using the Museum collections to show off the School of PRHS (its research, teaching and museum) to students, visitors and the public. Previously the Gillinson Room displayed a number of objects from the Museum’s history of education collection and the medial collection, as well as two displays created by students who took part in history of technology modules in 2013/14. But it is due a new look.

This project will be running over the summer of 2015, and beginning last week, museum volunteers began to clear the room. The objects that were on display have been indexed and carefully packed away. The store has been tidied so we can find space for these ‘new’ objects to live. Some free standing display cases (previously used as storage space) have been brought up to the Gillinson Room from Chemistry West on a art-trolley (to some very odd looks from passers-by).

This reshuffle means that we can now have two full walls of cases in the Gillinson Room, which allows us to move the newer glass cases out of the room into other spaces.  Visitors without access to the Gillinson will be able to see more or our exciting collections more of the time.

We will be painting, moving and reshuffling over the summer, so we apologise that the Gillinson Room won’t be looking its best for a few months. But, assuming there are no disasters, it will be ready for the new academic year.

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.

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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!