British Museum blog

Catching up with progress in the Money Gallery


Catherine Eagleton, curator, British Museum

It’s now a couple of months since the last blog post – so much has been going on that we haven’t had time to write anything about it all. Sometimes, when I talk to friends outside the museum sector, they are surprised at how long major exhibition or gallery projects seem to take, but when you’re working on one of these projects, you see the number and range of things that there are to do.

At the moment, there is hoarding up in what will become The Citi Money Gallery, and behind there, the cases have all been emptied, and the walls and ceiling have been repainted. Next, there’s work to do on cabling and other basic infrastructure, before we start to install the new displays. Before the scaffolding came down, I made sure I went up to the top, touched the ceiling, and took this picture.

The view above the hoardings

The view above the hoardings

At the same time, the final work is being done on the design of the gallery, including the layout of objects in the cases, and the text that will go with them. With so many specialist curators involved, each piece of text has to be edited, and checked, and re-checked, to make sure we have every detail right. Then, the text and images all go to our graphic designer to create the panels and labels for the new displays. As I write, we are expecting the first proofs of the panels to arrive, which means that it starts to feel like the new gallery is nearly ready to be installed.

The objects aren’t being neglected either, and the team of Museum Assistants in the Department of Coins and Medals are busy checking all the object lists, and getting all the objects ready for display. This preparation involves every object being individually checked by one of the Museum’s conservation team to make sure it’s in good enough condition to go on permanent display, as well as so they can advise on how objects are mounted. With more than 1000 to check, this is a big job.

It’s amazing sometimes what a gallery curator gets involved with – from paint colour choices to deep discussions about how to ensure consistency in our use of ancient place names, and from climbing scaffolding to talking about whether a plastic object would deteriorate if it was on display for five years. I’ll be talking more about this to the next generation of museum curators at a Museum Studies day in March, which I’m very excited about.

The Money Gallery project is supported by Citi and opens in June 2012.

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Filed under: Collection, Money Gallery

4 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Thankyou for the last blog post.You have an awful amount of work to do which I am sure everyone appreciates, especially those who work at the wonderful British Museum.

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  2. Lauren Schofield says:

    It’s so interesting to get a glimpse of how it all works. So disappointed that I can’t make the Museum Studies day will there be another at any point?

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  3. Its really wonderful to see a behind the scenes picture. I actually used this today to inspire my kids to think about what happens behind the scenes at the British Museum! As a former museum curator my eldest boy is familiar with some of the practical stuff in a smaller museum and is very familiar with the galleries at the BM and it was really useful to show him what goes into putting on an exhibition on a bigger scale. We plan to make our own mini exhibitions at the weekend now. Thanks, more of this please :)

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  4. Daniel says:

    The Citi Money Gallery is very impressive. I’d be interested to know what colour you painted it. It makes an imposing sight and sets off the displays to wondrous effect.

    Like

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For our final #MuseumInstaSwap post we’re highlighting the 'Make Do and Mend' campaign of the Second World War, as told by our partner @ImperialWarMuseums in their #FashionontheRation exhibition.

The campaign was launched to encourage people to make their existing supplies of clothes last longer. Posters and leaflets were circulated with advice on subjects including how to prevent moth damage to woollens, how to make shoes last longer or how to care for different fabrics. As the war went on, buying new was severely restricted by coupon limits and no longer an option for many people. The ability to repair, renovate and make one's own clothes became increasingly important. Although shoppers would have to hand over coupons for dressmaking fabric as well as readymade clothes, making clothes was often cheaper and saved coupons. ‘Make Do and Mend’ classes took place around the country, teaching skills such as pattern cutting. Dress makers and home sewers often had to be experimental in their choice of fabrics. Despite disliking much of the official rhetoric to Make Do and Mend, many people demonstrated great creativity and adaptability in dealing with rationing. Individual style flourished. Shortages necessitated imaginative use of materials, recycling and renovating of old clothes and innovative use of home-made accessories, which could alter or smarten up an outfit. Many women used furnishing fabrics for dressmaking until these too were rationed. Blackout material, which did not need points, was also sometimes used. Parachute silk was highly prized for underwear, nightclothes and wedding dresses.

We've really enjoyed working with and learning from our friends at @imperialwarmuseums this week. You can catch up on all our posts and discover many more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 4773 For #MuseumInstaSwap we’re discovering the street style of the Second World War in the #FashionontheRation exhibition at @ImperialWarMuseums. In this archive photo a female member of the Air Raid Precautions staff applies her lipstick between emergency calls.

In wartime Britain it was unfashionable to be seen wearing clothes that were obviously showy, yet women were frequently implored not to let 'standards' slip too far. There was genuine concern that a lack of interest in personal appearance could be a sign of low morale, which could have a detrimental impact on the war effort. The government's concern for the morale of women was a major factor in the decision to continue the manufacture of cosmetics, though in much reduced quantities. Make-up was never rationed, but was subject to a luxury tax and was very expensive. Many cosmetics firms switched some of their production to items needed for the war effort. Coty, for example, were known for their face powder and perfumes but also made army foot powder and anti-gas ointment. Make-up and hair styles took on an increased importance and many women went to great lengths to still feel well-dressed and stylish even if their clothes were last season's, their stockings darned and accessories home-made. As with clothing, women found creative ways around shortages, with beetroot juice used for a splash of lip colour and boot polish passing for mascara.

Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap © IWM (D 176) In the @ImperialWarMuseums exhibition ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s street style’ we can see how men and women found new ways to dress while clothing was rationed. Displays of original clothes from the era, from military uniforms to utility underwear, reveal what life was really like on the home front in wartime Britain.

Despite the limitations imposed by rationing, clothing retailers sought to retain and even expand their customer base during the Second World War. Britain's high street adapted in response to wartime conditions, and this was reflected in their retail ranges. The government intervened in the mass manufacture of high street fashions with the arrival of the Utility clothing scheme in 1942. Shoppers carefully spent their precious clothing coupons and money on new clothes to make sure their purchases would be suitable across spring, summer and autumn and winter. Despite the restrictions, the war and civilian austerity did not put an end to creative design, commercial opportunism or fashionable trends on the British home front.

#FashionontheRation exhibition runs @imperialwarmuseums until 31 August.

Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap. For our final day of #MuseumInstaSwap we’re learning about the Second World War @ImperialWarMuseums, and discovering the impact of the war on ordinary people. 
Clothes were rationed in Britain from 1 June 1941. This limited the amount of new garments people could buy until 1949, four years after the war's end. The British government needed to reduce production and consumption of civilian clothes to safeguard raw materials and release workers and factory space for war production. As with food rationing, which had been in place since 1940, one of the reasons for introducing civilian clothes rationing was to ensure fairness. Rationing sought to ensure a more equal distribution of clothing and improve the availability of garments in the shops.

As this poster shows, the rationing scheme worked by allocating each type of clothing item a 'points' value which varied according to how much material and labour went into its manufacture. Eleven coupons were needed for a dress, two needed for a pair of stockings, and eight coupons required for a man's shirt or a pair of trousers. Women's shoes meant relinquishing five coupons, and men's footwear cost seven coupons. When buying new clothes, the shopper had to hand over coupons with a 'points' value as well as money. Every adult was initially given an allocation of 66 points to last one year, but this allocation shrank as the war progressed. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 8293) This week on @instagram we’ve joined up with other London museums to highlight our shared stories. Our partner is @imperialwarmuseums, whose incredible collection brings people’s experiences of modern war and conflict to life. Follow #MuseumInstaSwap to discover some of the intriguing historical connections we have found, as well as insights into everyday life during wartime. As part of our #MuseumInstaSwap with @ImperialWarMuseums, we’ve been given special access to the Churchill War Rooms – located deep below the streets of Westminster.
This is Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s bedroom, which includes his private desk, briefcase and papers, his bed and chamber pot and even an original cigar! The bedroom is located close to the Map Room, keeping Churchill as close as possible to the epicentre of Cabinet War Rooms.
Following the surrender of the Japanese Forces the doors to the War Rooms were locked on 16 August 1945 and the complex was left undisturbed until Parliament ensured its preservation as a historic site in 1948. Knowledge of the site and access to it remained highly restricted until the late 1970s when @ImperialWarMuseums began the task of preserving the site and its contents, making them accessible to as wide an audience as possible and opening them to the public in 1984.
Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap
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