Posts Tagged ‘Tate Modern’

One-eyed museum visitor

In Museums on January 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

Last week I had a rather nasty eye infection, the details of which I won’t go into, but if you like gruesome things, then here you go. Before my eye had been properly diagnosed I made a visit to Tate Modern to see the Gauguin exhibition which closed on 16 January.

In the museum sector we know that we have to make our content understandable and accessible to as many audiences as possible, irrelevant of visitors’ nationality, level of education or physical/mental ability. Museums have come on leaps and bounds in recent years in terms of providing enhanced access for those who have sensory impairments – large print booklets, audio-described audio guides and tactile models are now the norm in at least our larger museums and others are catching up.

I was in a fair bit of pain that day and wearing dark glasses as my eyes were sensitive to the light, so I thought it would be interesting to perhaps experience some of what visually impaired visitors go through as part of a museum visit. (Of course, I could never replicate actual disability, but perhaps the experience might teach me something.)

Perhaps the biggest thing I took away from this was the timing of my visit. I had, through only my own fault, not been to see the exhibition on a quiet mid-week afternoon during the middle of the exhibition run, outside of a school holiday. I had, in fact, decided to visit on perhaps one of the busiest days of the run, right before it closed. The place was heaving with people – even with timed tickets we had to queue for 15 minutes just to get in the door! I’ve always thought the lighting in Tate Modern was rather harsh, but with an added sensitivity it seemed even more unbearable. Nobody enjoys going to an art gallery when it’s incredibly busy – something which doesn’t seem to bother Tate, who will regularly oversell time slots – but it’s even more confusing and baffling when you’re battling with one sense out of order.

I wish I’d also taken an audio-described audio tour of the exhibition as Tate’s insistence on long, wordy introductory panels followed by barely visible painting captions in light grey at below waist level made identifying any of the works of art a challenge, especially through a crowd three-deep in front of the viewer.

That said, Tate are still capable of achieving something amazing – the range of institutions and private collections lending to the exhibition was mind boggling. They have a political presence in the art world which means they can attract loans and sponsorship from a wide range of donors, both artistic and financial. It’s a shame they insist on pumping as many people through their galleries as possible.

I’ve certainly taken an added sense of understanding of the needs of a visually impaired visitor. I’ll be thinking of them next time I design an exhibition scheme which features a world map tucked away in a corner, a blank wall with no directional information on it, a 300-word text panel and a labelling system at the back of a display case. They’re all simple things really – noted down in my list of top interpretation tips.

Transforming Tate Britain

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on August 27, 2010 at 10:50 am

Not content with adding a whole new wing to Tate Modern, Tate are now planning to undertake some major redevelopment work at their Millbank site. Tate Britain isn’t exactly shabby, but they’ve identified a number of key areas where they could do with updating or revisiting how the gallery works, especially in terms of visitors.

In an article on Museum [Insider] I’ve written up the details of what’s planned. They’re spending £45million on works in different parts of the building – so this is more a joined up project with lots of little projects combined into one. 9 galleries at the south end of the building will be redeveloped – and to be honest they need doing. The rotunda and entrance will be transformed and a new education entrance created. There will also be a new cafe – of course – and terrace, to cater for the growing numbers that have been visiting Tate Britain in recent years.

Planning permission for the project is granted and work is expected to start in early 2011. Watch this space for more….

Museum Awards 2009

In Awards on December 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm

It’s the time of year for award ceremonies, so I’m instigating here the inaugural, annual awards from Steve Slack HQ. 2009 has been a great year for museum visits. Here are my highlights

Museum visit of the year is awarded to SS Great Britain in Bristol for their excellent interpretation and choice of audio guides – visitors can choose whether to listen to the perspective of a first class passenger, someone travelling in steerage or the ship’s cat.

Exhibition of the year goes to the futurist show Rodchenko and Popova at Tate Modern. I’m not always a fan of TM shows, but this one really did it for me, with some excellent pieces being gathered from far and wide for the display. And great exhibition branding too, which really fit with the show’s concept.

Interpretive device of the year goes to the Antwerp Fashion Museum for their exhibition on Belgian handbag design house Delvaux. I particularly liked the display of how to make a handbag, and also some great mock-ups of advertising and promotional material from the last 150 years. I blogged about it here.

Something for everyone in Tate Modern 2

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on June 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I wrote a piece a few months ago about the proposed developments at the back of Tate Modern. Turns out Tate got planning permission for the new extension which will rise eleven storeys high from the back of the existing building.

I went back to Tate Modern last week to interview Anna Cutler (Head of Learning) and Gillian Wilson (Curator of Interpretation) about what they’re up to now. We chatted about the content planned for TM2 and the interpretive thinking about their audiences that’s going into the project. Their plans sound really exciting – there’ll be a wider variety of interpretive devices in the TM2 – something for everyone.

The resulting article is live on Museum [Insider] now.

Tate TWO

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on March 31, 2009 at 2:22 pm

It’s almost as if the Tate brand can’t stop expanding. St Ives, Liverpool, Tate Modern. Now planning proposals are in to build a huge extension on the back of the Bankside site, to create vast new public spaces and areas for display. As ever, I’ve written a piece about it on Museum [Insider].


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