A Derbyshire salon hang?

Over the last five years Buxton Museum has bought over 30 artworks as part of the Enlightenment! project. These range from oil paintings by Royal Academy artists to watercolours by unknown amateurs. What the pictures all have in common, is that they show either Derbyshire views or Derbyshire people and were created between 1743 and about 1880.

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All these artworks have been on display in the Museum, and many of them have toured to Derby Museum and Art Gallery and Strutt’s North Mill. We don’t have a permanent art gallery at the Museum. Instead we incorporate art into the Wonders of the Peak Gallery, especially in the Georgian Room, and into our temporary exhibition programme. As part of Collections in the Landscape we are looking at redeveloping the Wonders of the Peak Gallery and have a commitment to put 10% more objects on display.

Salon hangs were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
This is an image of the 1839 Derby Exhibition at the Mechanics Institute in Derby.

I am very keen to get more art on display and one way of doing this in a small space is by implementing a salon hang – basically floor to ceiling art.  Although I like salon hangs, I do find that they don’t always work and that pictures can sometimes blend too much into the background. Traditionally the ‘best’ paintings were hung ‘on the line’ i.e at eye level. While those further down the hierarchy were ‘skied’, meaning that you can’t get a decent look at them! The benefits of the salon hang, is that you are able to get more art on show and they are displayed in an appropriate period style.

Salon hang at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Salon hang at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I think Buxton Museum’s Derbyshire views would work well in this scenario. It would give the wall a strong theme and comparisons could be made easily between the different artists’ interpretations of the views. Oils could be up there semi-permanently while works on paper could be on a rolling programme, limiting their exposure to the light. We could also look at drawers, possibly in a Georgian Gentleman’s style cabinet in which to display prints and watercolours, which would allow public access while limiting light damage.

Anna using the iExplore app at the Clarke Institute

Anna using the iExplore app at the Clarke Institute

 
It can be tricky to get the interpretation right on a salon hang, as it doesn’t lend itself to the traditional museum label.  While visiting museums over the last 6 months I have been keeping my eyes peeled for ideas. I enjoyed the hang at the Clarke Institute in Massachusetts, USA. Here they’ve hung over 80 paintings in a small room and the bulk of the interpretation is accessed via tablets, which are loaned to visitors. It creates an interesting exhibition and I enjoyed the ‘hodgepodgeness’ of depictions of American Indians displayed alongside a Renaissance Madonna and British coastal scenes.

Using the iExplore app

The tablet displayed a programme called uExplore which gave further information on the paintings and sometimes also relevant audio and video content. There was another interactive app called uCurate which allows visitors to digitally curate their own exhibition – you choose the paintings, wall colours, design layout etc.

A visitor using the uCurate app at the Clarke Institute

A visitor using the uCurate app at the Clarke Institute

Both apps are available to use from the comfort of your own home – http://www.clarkart.edu/exhibitions/remix/content/exhibition.cfm We’d be interested to know what you think?

 
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The Journey Begins…

Welcome to Collections in the Landscape!

Over the coming months we’re hoping to develop some really exciting ideas at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery. We want to give visitors more choice and more control in how they access and experience our collections.

The concept of the project is to link objects in the museum collections to places in the landscape. Where did that fossil form? Where was that arrowhead discovered? Where did the artist sit to sketch that view? This will be achieved through digital media in the landscape as well through media inside the museum galleries.

Visitors enjoyed seeing real images during 'Pictures in the Landscape'. Will digital work as well?

The ‘Pictures in the Landscape’ successfully brought real images to the landscape. The next step is to offer even more content digitally.

Digital versus Physical

Without wanting to sound clichéd, we’d like to try to blur the boundaries between the digital and physical visit. In the case of somebody who is only ever going to visit us online, don’t we need to ensure they can get as much from this experience as possible?

There’s a rapidly growing argument that says museums need to change to meet the needs of the 21st Century to ensure they continue to be relevant. Like it or not, the future is looking more and more digital. I’m told that by 2020 around 50% of the public will be using smartphones and, as data services improve, so will the speed and online capabilities of these devices.

Of course, whilst this is all very exciting, we cannot escape the fact that museums are centred on real objects. As a result we’ll also be ensuring that the project will improve the displays at the museum with the inclusion of more objects and more choice in terms of how visitors access information whilst in the galleries.

Follow the Story

We’ve been awarded a Stage One Pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pilot ideas and develop the Collections in the Landscape project. If successful, we hope to start implementing our plans towards the end of 2014.

This blog will track the work of the project team as we collect ideas and develop pilot schemes. We want to hear what you think about the work we are doing or your own thoughts about how museums should or could embrace the digital age.

Navigate around the site to find out how you can get involved or to find out more information. Alternatively, simply leave us a comment below. Collections in the Landscape – let’s start the conversation.

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