Louise and Shaun examining the Harpy Tomb panels
Last week we made good progress on displaying the Harpy Tomb panels in the linking corridor in between the Museum’s Numismatic Gallery and the third of the Ancient Worlds galleries on the second floor. It has always been a difficult area to use for display because it is quite a narrow space and it is often very busy with people walking through to see the Vivarium on the other side of the Museum. We planned to install some of our collection of plaster casts of ancient Greek sculpture that used to be in storage in time for the opening of the Ancient Worlds galleries just over a year ago but ran out of time. Members of the conservation and collections team had cleaned and repaired them. Since then we’ve explored a number of different options in the space before deciding to install the plaster casts ourselves.
Installation of plaster cast panel from the Harpy Tomb
Our technical team created a framework to support the plaster casts and installed sheets of acrylic to protect them. Unfortunately we don’t have casts of all the panels so we will fill in the gaps using panels printed with a line drawing of the design. This will provide a better understanding of the sculpture, although it is rather different from the original configuration at the top of a square sided tower. We are laying out the panels in a straight run to fit the format of the linking corridor.
View along the linking corridor on the second floor of Manchester Museum
As part of the interpretation we will install some vinyl lettering with a quotation from an ancient text that mentions the Harpies. In the image above the text printed onto paper has been placed in position to check that the font size fits the space. Even though this was only a test it was interesting to see that visitors were very interested and reading the text in the display. A small block of text and a photo of the site of the Harpy Tomb in Turkey will also be installed to inform visitors. The original panels are displayed at the British Museum.
Visitors admiring the Harpy Tomb panels
My thanks to Shaun and Louise from the Visitors Services team and the anonymous couple (above) who very sportingly allowed their photograph to be taken looking at the casts
Bryan adjusts a Greek vase in preparation for 3D photography on a turntable.
It is fair to say that we have been rather busy of late. In addition to writing all the text for the galleries and sourcing relevant images, conducting interviews and editing them, we have found time to help out with 3D photography of 50 of our key objects. These will be available as interactive digital content within the mobile web experience, online for regular desktop browsing, and will allow a spectacular and up-close view of objects on mobile devices and via a large screen in the gallery itself.
Julian, from a company called Littlestar, spent several days getting the images just right – allowing a new appreciation of objects often seen in static photography.
We have also been meeting regularly with designers Opera to work on final placement of cases and objects, and to agree on the layout of interpretation. Looking at the designs in an increasingly advanced stage of completion is both very exciting – and slightly terrifying.
Meeting head designer Jelena over coffee
More soon on developments as they happen.
The Museum is applying for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to pay for the redevelopment of the Archaeology and Egyptology galleries. As part of the application process we have to show how we are engaging people, both inside and outside the Museum, in the project.
A small team of Museum staff is developing an Activity Plan, gathering information and reporting back to the Lottery about all the different ways that people are involved, from consultation on the themes and displays to working as volunteer guides when the galleries re-open. The funders are interested in two key areas of involvement so we are concentrating on activities that promote participation and learning. There will be staff learning new skills and training in technology, designing, building and promoting the new galleries; local schools and community groups will be adding their ideas to the project and taking part in public events and learning programmes, and experts are advising the gallery development team and contributing to the content.
We’ve passed Stage 1 of our funding application and will be applying for Stage 2 in August 2010, so wish us luck!
If you want to know more about the project visit our Ancient Worlds blog Ancient World blog or contact the museum: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff from Manchester Museum and Opera meeting in Amsterdam
Just returned from a short visit to Amsterdam to meet Opera, the designers working on the Ancient Worlds displays at the Manchester Museum. Opera are helping us to develop the second stage of a Heritage Lottery Bid. Last December Opera presented their initial ideas to develop the content of the Ancient Worlds galleries, which will open in October 2012.
The key idea we all really liked was to look at the past through the lives of characters, such as people with strong connections to the Museum, its collections and to archaeology in general, people such as William Boyd Dawkins, the first curator, or Barri Jones, whose excavations in the centre of Manchester redisc0vered the Roman origins of the city.
Some of the people could be historic characters, such as Worsley Man, whose head was found in a local peat bog in the 1950s or even an object or a piece of landscape. By engaging with a wide range of these characters visitors will be drawn into the displays and the various issues and topics of the discipline of archeaology (including Egyptology).
In Amsterdam we took this a bit further. It became clear that a disproportionate number of our collectors were middle-aged men with the money and leisure time to pursue archaeology (typically “men with beards”). Don’t get me wrong – I’m a middle-aged man myself ! We decided to change the approach slightly so the characters brought the story of archaeology in Manchester up-to-date by way of the more theoretical approaches that emerged from the New Archaeology of the 1970s.
The last couple of days has been a hectic round of editing and correcting the matrix ready to send back to Opera. With more visits booked in March and April this looks like it will develop very quickly.