Modern History Galleries 1500–1968
Completed autumn 2014
Overall budget £750k Exhibition design budget £300k
The Ulster Museum is the largest museum in Northern Ireland. In 2013 we were commissioned to redesign and refocus the interpretation for the modern history (1500–1968) galleries at the Ulster Museum into a richer and more layered experience. The summative elevation for the project found the exhibition design to have succeeded in ‘opening up’ the original gallery spaces and creating ‘enticing’ exhibits offering greater access to heritage.
We united objects, graphic interpretation and interactive elements, making the storytelling more accessible, and resulting in creating a coherent and visually interesting display. We created contextual understanding for stories and objects, part manifesting in a large-scale timeline printed to the gallery walls, linking world events to local history.
Within one gallery sits a 5m long interactive touch table (designed in collaboration with Centre Screen) where visitors can access digitised archival material, listen to voice recordings and watch short films. This centrepiece also introduces the five narrative threads that wind their way through the displays, making connections between people, objects and events.
We worked closely with the client interpretation team to establish the conceptual principles and narrative hierarchy, drawing diagrams and plans in an iterative process. The budget was tight for this 550 sqm museum build, so strategic and agile thinking was required to deliver all the project’s goals and aspirations. We had to manage and execute a rigorous approach to object conservation, including detailed scheduling of mount making.
The HLF reported that the new galleries supported outreach work to help local groups and organisations connect with their history in a way that were challenging and helped them understand the complexities of what happened more widely in history.Above all, the galleries provide a focus for today’s communities to consider their own personal histories in the context of wider social and political histories, and to explore, assess and challenge their own attitudes and values.