Welcome to this exciting new blog documenting a pioneering and collaborative project by the Wallace Collection, Newham Family Leaning Services, West Hampstead Asian Women’s Group, Aaina Women’s Group and West Ealing Deaf Women’s Minorities Group.
My name is Sophie Martin and I am the Audience Development Officer at the Wallace Collection. From November 2011 to November 2012, I will have been working with the above groups in a creative project to make artwork for a community intergenerational exhibition that will be displayed in the Wallace Collection from the 17th November to the 13th January. For the last year I have been updating this blog to bring you the latest news about the project and participants.
This project is generally sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The intergenerational community exhibition titled Journeys East celebrates the refurbishment of the Wallace Collection’s much adored East Galleries which are home to the Museum’s Dutch masterpieces including Rembrandt’s Self Portrait in a Black Cap and Jan Steen’s Celebrating the Birth.
The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is a national museum which displays the works of art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the fourth Marquess. It remains Britain’s greatest ever bequest of works of art and was left to the nation by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897. It is now presented in their main London townhouse – Hertford House. The remarkable domestic setting of the Wallace Collection integrates paintings, furniture, sculpture and porcelain as the artists and craftsmen who made them, and the collectors who lived with them, intended. The heritage is therefore important as a reflection on a moment in our history, an enquiry into the way people lived as well as a presentation of world-class objects in sumptuous surroundings.
Refurbishment of the Museum’s East Galleries
This is a Heritage Lottery-funded project which focuses on the East Galleries which re-opened in Spring. During this project, the East Galleries’ interior has been transformed to restore the original sense of the spaces and to preserve them for future generations to enjoy. This has been achieved through the following building works;
– the Dutch picture collection has been re-presented at its very best by replacing the wall silks and gilding and replacing, or where possible conserving, other decorative features;
– state of the art security systems have been installed to ensure the Museum can maintain its commitment to allowing visitors to enjoy the Collection as the Hertford family would have done, without a plinth or rope in sight;
– a new LED lighting system has been installed to ensure the works of art are presented in the best possible way, are protected from unsafe lighting levels and to enhance the new natural top lighting made possible through the structural changes;
– new environmental controls have been installed to protect these masterworks;
– the cabinets of portrait miniatures, which currently dominate the space, have been returned to their original location in the 19th Century Gallery and West Galleries.
The display of the works of art in these galleries has been transformed to enhance the Wallace Collection’s capacity to connect with its visitors through the following alterations:
– display of the paintings reflects the Victorian hang of Sir Richard Wallace. The pictures are presented in a dense hang in their nineteenth-century gilt frames. This evokes the original feel of these galleries and creates ideal circumstances to create groups and to invite comparisons.
– the style of display focuses on the great ages in the collecting of Dutch paintings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Wallace Collection is particularly rich in important Dutch works which have passed through many of the leading collections of that period. The new display thus alludes to English collecting of the nineteenth century, but also (in display, colours and framing) to the eighteenth-century Parisian fashion for Dutch works, thus combining fascination with the history of collecting with the primary
enjoyment of Dutch seventeenth century masterworks.
– the three galleries have clearly defined, individual themes with the social history theme evident throughout. East Gallery I presents works by Rembrandt and his workshop and early contemporaries, East Gallery II evolves around genre and landscape painting of the Dutch Golden Age and East Gallery III unites works by Dutch artists in Italy.
These Galleries are perhaps the Wallace Collection’s most popular due to the magnificent range of seventeenth century Dutch Paintings they contain. To celebrate the redisplay of these wonderfully characterful paintings, the Wallace Collection is very keen to invite new audiences into the Museum to help us to re-interpret and present them from a dynamic range of angles. We hope that this will assist the Museum in becoming more representative of and appealing to local communities.
Audience Development Project
Whilst the Wallace Collection is very proud of its increasing visitor numbers and its commitment to attracting, maintaining the interest of and catering for the broadest possible audience, we would benefit greatly from learning how to improve the ways in which we present the Museum and its Collection to the wider world as well as how to make it more accessible, welcoming and relevant to its non-traditional visitors. These visitors include individuals from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.The refurbishment of the Wallace Collection’s East Galleries presents an exciting opportunity for us to achieve this whilst exploring the histories of the Dutch East India Company which helped to propel the Dutch Golden Age in which many of the Museum’s Dutch artworks were created and to reach out to South East Asian audiences affected by the legacies of this historic period.
From November 2011 to November 2012, 60 children adults and elderly people from Newham Family Learning Services, West Hampstead Asian Women’s Group, Aaina Women’s Group and West Ealing Deaf Women’s Minorities Group have been working together and meeting weekly, to take part in practical art making workshops, discussion workshops and exhibition planning workshops to create a display of their own work inspired by the Museum’s collection of Dutch paintings. This exhibition will be marketed to a broad diversity of audiences through a public exhibition launch, a press breakfast, accompanying family, school and adult formal and informal learning sessions and a public celebration day entitled ‘A day in the life of the Seventeenth Century’. An expanse of new and varied groups will therefore be encouraged to enjoy the participant’s work whist being introduced to the Wallace Collection in reassuring approaches that will accommodate the needs of these visitors.
A second core aspect of the Audience Development project has involved the recruitment of a team of Community Ambassadors who have been working regularly with Wallace Collection staff from February 2012 to February 2013. During these twelve months the Community Ambassadors have learnt about the Museum, it’s works of art, how to care for and display historical artefacts, different forms of display and exhibition interpretation, museum education, public programming and museum and exhibition marketing. In learning about these museological practices the Community Ambassadors have become well-trained to work closely with the 60 adults, children and elderly people from Newham Family Learning Services, West Hampstead Women’s Group and Annia Women’s group to advise and assist the project participants in creating display, interpretation and marketing strategies for the intergenerational community exhibition. The Community Ambassadors have also been able to guide project participants on how to plan and deliver accompanying school, family and adult activities. Additionally, the Community Ambassadors have been trained to work closely with different staff departments in the Wallace Collection to inspire the Museum to explore new and different forms of exhibition interpretation, educational activities and marketing strategies to innovate the Museum, making it more appealing to new and broader audiences.
A third core aspect of our project consists of the recruitment of eight Refugee Tour Guides. These Refugee Tour Guides have been working closely with the Wallace Collection’s curators, education staff and guide lecturers for twelve months between February 2012 to February 2013 to learn about the Wallace Collection’s history, works of art, current and future vision. The Refuge Tour Guides have also been working closely with the other project participants to learn about the making, themes and artwork displayed in the intergenerational community exhibition. Additionally, the Refugee Tour Guides have been trained by the Wallace Collection’s curators, education staff and guide lecturers in public speaking and have learnt how to devise and deliver their own-guided tours of the Museum to the general public. During the display of the intergenerational community exhibition the Refugee Tour Guides will give their own guided tours of the exhibition and will link these tours to the rest of the Wallace Collection. Following the end of the exhibition the Refugee Tour Guides will give general ‘highlights’ tours of the Wallace Collection. These guided tours of the intergenerational community exhibition and of the Wallace Collection will reflect the personal preferences and interpretations of the Refugee Tour Guides as well as their own cultural heritage. The guided tours will therefore facilitate the Museum in offering alternative and culturally diverse interpretations of its collections which will appeal to a wider range of audiences and will hopefully encourage new groups to visit and enjoy the Museum.
The final core aspect of our project is the recruitment and development of two costumed actors who have performed the characters of Jean Pellicorne by Harmenszoon van Rijn Rembrandt and the Young Archer by Govaert Flinck to project participants, the general public and to visiting school groups. During the performances the two actors portray both a European and a non-European perspective of the expansion of the Dutch Republic and the East India Company during the seventeenth century. These perspectives have enabled project participants and the general public to learn about the birth of the Dutch Republic, the wealth it created from trading goods from the East and the impact that trade and the development of the Dutch East India Company had on both the Netherlands and the countries that contained Dutch ports. This information has both inspired project participants in creating artwork, interpretation, public activities and guided tours for the intergenerational community exhibition and has also helped to put the exhibition into context for visitors who will want to understand how the exhibition links to the Museum’s Dutch works of art.