How can you make heritage tactile? How do you make the intangible relatable?
Heritage and cultural venues face these challenges on a daily basis as conservation vies with experience.
Look but Don't Touch
No matter how much as visitors we may wish to touch museum artefacts, feel the cool surface of the silver, the ripples in the glassware, or the sharp edges of the filigree, it is not possible. In order for the artefacts to be preserved they must be protected. But they can still be brought to life.
There is something special that occurs when you hold something handcrafted, uniquely designed, and take the time to consider it. Crafted objects have feeling, history: the people who made them, the skill behind them, and the provenance of the materials from which they were made. Their resonance is deeper than that of the mass-produced item, no matter how aesthetically appealing or relevant that mass-produced item might be.
The resonance of considered, personal work, independently designed and handcrafted is much closer to that of the historical artefact, both imbued with history, albeit of different longevity. They carry the emotions and actions of those who came into contact with them in the past, the skill of the individual who made it, almost certainly by hand, using traditional techniques that have remained the same for centuries.
The Museum of Edinburgh has an exceptional diversity of artefacts that narrate the history of the city, from the original dog bowl, collar and portraits of the universally beloved Greyfriars’ Bobby, to the original city plans for Edinburgh’s New Town by James Craig, to Earl Haig’s military regalia, to exceptional Scottish pottery collections and a sedan chair….and that’s barely scratching the surface. Further inspection of their collection reveals unique ceramic buttons, an RLS golf ball, canon balls, designs of gargoyles, ornate grandfather clocks, old town pipes that were handmade from wood, solid silver greyhound collars…it’s a veritable treasure trove of daily life in Edinburgh down the centuries, each piece the work of skilled craftspeople of yesteryear.
Craft Design House has recently completed a project for the Museum of Edinburgh, drawing out the stories, personalities and sensory elements of the museum’s collections and developing a bespoke range of handcrafted and designed retail to provide a sensory experience and fire the visitors’ imagination.
A number of Craft Design House’s designers and makers have worked on the project, highlighting artefacts, methods and materials from the museum’s collections through contemporary work. Reflecting the museum’s emphasis on glassware, ceramics and silverware, the majority of the designers and makers selected for the commission were from these disciplines. Designers local to Edinburgh were also prioritised, with an instinctive connection to the city and the museum’s collections. Each designer found their own connection to the collections, and discovered their own ways of interpreting the magic and uniqueness of the displays in their own discipline.
Through the eyes of the designers and the pieces realised by their designs, the new range uncovers amazing pieces of the museum’s collection, drawing attention to pieces that might easily have been overlooked but deserve to be celebrated, drawing new and old audiences alike to this fascinating and diverse museum.
With adorable ceramic creations of Greyfriars’ Bobby, silver and porcelain jewellery reincarnations of the fantastical beasts which decorate the museum’s exterior walls, and watercolour-illustrated silk scarves featuring the diverse architecture of Edinburgh’s old and new towns to mention just a few of the pieces, the handcrafted range draws out and highlights some of the most engaging and unusual aspects of the museum and its collections.
The handcrafted range will be available for sale exclusively through the Museum of Edinburgh. Visitors can fall in love with their museum collections and take a piece home, or they can nip into the gift shop and be so intrigued by the range that they are inspired for their trip around the museum.
Whether the gift shop is the first, last or only destination of a museum visitor, they can learn something about the collection’s breadth and eclecticism, and engage with something unique and tangible; part of a thread linking the past with the present.
The Museum of Edinburgh range is launching soon in their gift shop. Please touch.
Discover new ways to connect with your audience with Craft Design House at firstname.lastname@example.org