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.

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Next in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series of gallery spaces it's Room 53, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Ancient South Arabia. Ancient South Arabia was centred on what is now modern Yemen but included parts of Saudi Arabia and southern Oman. It was famous in the ancient world as an important source of valuable incense and perfume, and was described by Classical writers as Arabia Felix ('Fortunate Arabia') because of its fertility.
Several important kingdoms flourished there at different times between 1000 BC and the rise of Islam in the 6th century AD. The oldest and most important of these was Saba, which is referred to as Sheba in the Bible.
Room 53 features highlights from the Museum’s collection, which is one of the most important outside Yemen. The display includes examples of beautiful carved alabaster sculptures originally placed inside tombs, incense-burners and a massive bronze altar. You can see the East stairs in the background of this picture. We've reached Room 52 on our #MuseumOfTheFuture series of gallery spaces – the Rahim Irvani Gallery of Ancient Iran. Iran was a major centre of ancient culture. It was rich in valuable natural resources, especially metals, and played an important role in the development of ancient Middle Eastern civilisation and trade. Room 52 highlights these ancient interconnections and the rise of distinctive local cultures, such as in Luristan, during the age of migrations after about 1400 BC.
During the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great founded a mighty Persian empire which eventually stretched from Egypt to Pakistan. Objects on display from this period include the Cyrus Cylinder (in the centre of the picture) and the Oxus Treasure (in the case to the left of the picture). Monumental plaster casts of sculptures from Persepolis are also displayed in Room 52 and on the East stairs.
The later periods of the Parthian and Sasanian empires mark a revival in Iranian culture and are represented through displays including silver plates and cut glass. The next gallery space in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series is Room 51, Europe and Middle East 10,000–800 BC. Farming began in the Middle East around 12,000 years ago, making possible the social, cultural and economic changes which shaped the modern world. It arrived in Britain around 6,000 years ago bringing a new way of life. This change in lifestyle meant people competed for wealth, power and status, displaying these through jewellery, weapons and feasting.
The objects on display in Room 51 show how the people of prehistoric Europe celebrated life and death and expressed their relationship with the natural world, the spirit world and each other. The object in the centre of this picture is the Mold gold cape, found in Flintshire in 1833 and dating to around 1900–1600 BC. This is Room 50, Britain and Europe 800 BC–AD 43, the next gallery space in our ongoing #MuseumOfTheFuture series. The Iron Age was a time of dramatic change for the people of Britain and Europe. Iron replaced bronze as the material used to make tools and weapons, while religion, art, daily life, economics and politics changed dramatically. The story of these civilisations (known to the Greeks and Romans as Britons, Celts, Germans and Iberians) and their distinct material cultures, is told through decorated Iron Age artefacts known as 'Celtic art' and more everyday objects. In the foreground of this picture you can see a selection of torcs and to the right is the Battersea shield, found in the River Thames in the 1850s. Next up in the #MuseumOfTheFuture gallery series it's the Weston Gallery of Roman Britain – Room 49. The Roman occupation of Britain between AD 43 and 410 dramatically transformed the material culture of the province. Imported goods and settlers from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa created a richer, more diverse society and a wealth of mosaics, wall paintings, sculpture, glassware and metalwork was produced.
The laws, administration, currency, architecture, engineering, religion and art of Rome met Britain’s Iron Age societies to create a distinctive 'Romano-British' identity, which is illustrated in Room 49 through a variety of objects and artworks including the Mildenhall treasure, the Hoxne Hoard and the Hinton St Mary mosaic. Born #onthisday in 1600: Charles I. During the Civil War this medal was worn in support of the King
#history #medal #king
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