Yesterday I had a meeting at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) North where I had the opportunity to have a look around their galleries. I visited the museum about five years ago but spent the majority of my time in the temporary exhibition, so I was looking forward to seeing their permanent gallery. Martin, an Interactor at the museum gave us a whistle-stop guided tour pointing out some of their star objects. While we were in the gallery a ‘Big Picture Show’ started and the space was suddenly transformed with sound and images. It was a really moving experience to see the gallery flooded with images of soldiers who had died in the line of duty, both in recent conflicts and from WWI. The images were accompanied by audio and interviews from friends and families focusing on specific soldiers, giving a snapshot into the devastation caused by their death – a single death in a sea of faces. It was a very moving and immersive experience and changed the atmosphere of the gallery completely.
After speaking to Martin it turns out that the IWM North and our ‘Wonders of the Peak’ have something in common. Martin explained that the building designed by Daniel Libeskind in 2002 was purposely created to cause disorientation and at times uncertainty for the visitor, mirroring the emotions of war. While these emotions were not intentional in the ‘Wonders of the Peak’, some visitors have complained of them and a general feeling of claustrophobia. It was interesting to speak to Martin about this and he explained that once Libeskind’s design is explained to visitors they ‘got it’ and enjoyed the experience, so I guess it all comes down to expectations and information – something to bear in mind for our redevelopment.
I thought the smaller images that were projected around the main gallery worked really well and this is something that could work at Buxton, especially when trying to explain geological time. You could have creatures (pre-fossilised) projected onto the walls giving an insight into the changing environment of Derbyshire, from tropical seas to Ice Age beasts. It would add a bit of drama to the gallery and keep it dynamic and fun.