As part of the MA Museum and Artefact Studies course (for museum-goers who are a bit too keen), some of us were provided with the unique opportunity to plan, prepare, and install an exhibition as part of one of our modules. We were free to do whatever we wished (within reason) and had only one rule: that our exhibition was based on the theme of ‘Time’ to intertwine with Palace Green Library’s ‘Time Machines’ exhibition.
Though our minds ran amok with opulent and outrageous ideas brought on by the potential of such a general topic, we quickly realised the important role we had in promoting and making the Museum of Archaeology and its extensive collection, accessible.
A bit about the Museum of Archaeology
The Museum of Archaeology moved from the Old Fulling Mill down by the river into Palace Green Library in 2014. The Museum of Archaeology has a gallery on the first floor of the historic building beside the Cathedral, right on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The gallery is spacious, interactive, and has a variety of objects on display telling the story of Durham over the last 10,000 years. Yet we knew there were still so many wonderful artefacts that needed to have their time in the spotlight. As our exhibition was to be displayed in the Museum of Archaeology, we thought it fitting that we helped show off as much of the archaeological collection as we could.
However, we wanted to choose a different kind of narrative…
DECAY: Time, Objects & Destruction
DECAY is an exploration of how objects found in the museum collections respond, and have responded, to their environments. This includes before the objects were found by archaeologists, whilst they’re on display to the public, and also the processes in between.
As we were initially provided with two displays cases, we decided – like woolly bears to textiles (check out the exhibition if you want to find out more) – to invade the rest of the gallery’s cases.
We thoroughly enjoyed the various challenges this experience brought our way. This ranged from planning a fun feedback session presenting our initial ideas to the Oriental Museum’s Durham Archaeology Explorers, to requesting bespoke commissions – such as the 3D-printed Roman head – from local businesses and organisations.
Working with the different teams at the Museum of Archaeology, Palace Green Library, and the Oriental Museum meant we could bring all their specialisms together to create this exhibition. Combining this with the skills we were learning on our course, and the trial and error methods we used during the planning process, we created an exhibition that showed off some of the most disgusting, beautiful, and underappreciated artefacts in the collections at Durham.
DECAY: Time, Objects & Destruction is on at the Museum of Archaeology in the Wolfson Room in Palace Green Library until Sunday 29 October 2017.
Dig Deeper with the Museum of Archaeology. Join Dr Mary Brooks on the 23 August 1pm-2pm for a talk related to decay Heart of Darkness: making sense of decay in the museum, Free and open to all
Finding Time: a Learning Pack for Teachers aimed at KS2 is available both online and for school visits to Palace Green Library. Please contact Palace Green Library for further details.
I am an MA student, studying Museum and Artefact Studies. I previously graduated from Durham with a BA in Ancient History. During my studies, I was Course Representative for my fellow museum-lovers, and I volunteer with Palace Green Library’s Exhibition Team every week. I now work as an Online Tutor and spend my time wriggling my way into the museum and heritage sector, as well as doing normal activities, such as reading and photography.