Dominic Petre from Ingatestone Hall shares his top-tip for displaying museum interpretation:
Some words of wisdom. Ingatestone Hall is a privately owned Tudor historic house that is still occupied by the family who built it. We are open for private events but also for general visits throughout the summer. When we threw open our doors to the public in 1992 we bought in a series of glass display cases to display all our small items of interest that were “hidden away in drawers”.
At that time our interpretation of the items was very simple. Each thing had a small label explaining what the item was – which seemed to work quite well. However, in recent years, we have become a little disenchanted with the way it appeared for several reasons:
- It was fiddly to change the labels when academic knowledge changed making the information displayed wrong or at least misleading.
- There was a ground swell of comments that the text size of the labels was too small to be read easily but increasing the size would mean that the cabinets would be more label than exhibit
- Some of the exhibits were very small but had a lot we wanted to say about them making the label size disproportionate to the exhibit
- And of course the labels were themselves deteriorating and becoming tatty
We decided to refresh the cases some time ago and decided that a fitting solution would be to number the individual exhibits and have a hand held guide referring to the numbered exhibit this, we felt, would solve a lot of the problems viz
- The text size could be bigger
- We could go into as much detail as we wanted
- We could include transcripts of difficult documents to read
- The cases them selves would be “sharper” and the labels would not distract from the objects themselves
- We could even have different guide books (for example – one for adults and one for children, interpreting the items in different ways)
We then hit a minor problem – looking on-line for nice number blocks we discovered a number of museum supply companies that would indeed supply numbered blocks but they were all very expensive and well beyond what we would budget for such an exercise. We considered making our own (out of wood) but the result never struck us as professional enough – and so the project stalled.
Then one day, when clearing up my son’s Lego I had a serendipitous idea. The sloping blocks would be ideal for this purpose. Using the on-line Lego shop, I got the correct sloping pieces in the right colour at a very good price. Using those with adhesive labels has I think produced a very professional and clean solution – I commend it to all.