Behind the Scenes of New Exhibition 'Voices from the Deep'

04 April 2018

Take an exclusive peek behind-the-scenes with our Exhibitions Officer Emma and find out what it takes to put a whole new exhibition together.

My name is Emma Harper and I’m Exhibitions Officer at The Postal Museum. For the past few months since we’ve opened, I’ve been working on our next temporary exhibition – Voices from the Deep – which has opened on 29 March 2018.

Emma at the ‘Voices from the Deep’ exhibition preview

This exhibition explores the remarkable story of the SS Gairsoppa, its cargo – including hundreds of letters – and its voyage, sinking and recovery 70 years later. We’ll share more about these stories with you on this blog over the coming months but today I’m going to give you an insight into the various aspects that go into creating and installing an exhibition.

Light and Colour

For this exhibition, we wanted to create a different atmosphere to the rest of the museum and a more controllable environment to give the visitor an immersive experience. In particular, we wanted to block out light and create the perfect backdrop for the graphic panels. We filled in gaps between columns and at the top and bottom of the partition wall splitting this area from the rest of the museum. Me and my boss also got our paint brushes out to paint a wall grey to match the rest of the space!

Walkers Joinery filling in the gaps between columns and walls

Moving Cases

One of the big differences for Voices from the Deep from our previous exhibition, Writing Home, is that we wanted our 5 tall glass display cases to be next to each other rather than spread around the space. These cases will hold 3D objects from the shipwreck kindly loaned to us by the archaeological company that found the Gairsoppa – Odyssey Marine Exploration. Moving them was no mean feat and involved some hydraulic lifters, straps, masking tape, 2 Curators, a nervous Exhibitions Officer and Conservator and a lot of measuring! But we managed it.

Preparing to move one of the exhibition cases

Display cases in their new position

3D build

It was then time for our contractors, Van Rooij and Griffiths to come on site and install the extra 3D items for the space: our specially made ship shaped display case; hanging rod screen and a postcard frame, as well as fixings for some UV torches. Although we have only recently opened, the structure of the building is over 70 years old (just like the objects going on display) so we had to test where we could drill into the ceiling and ensure we used most secure fixings and fastenings.

Hanging rod screen

Drilling holes to hold hanging torches

Objects

Once all the structural elements are in the space we gave it a clean and moved onto the most exciting bit – installing the objects. This fell into two parts: installing the 40+ letters from our collection into the ship-shaped display case and installing the 60+ (check) loaned shipwreck objects into the tall glass display cases.

As part of the exhibition design process, I had done mock layouts of these cases and trials with the real objects but this is the moment of truth and a final chance to get everything looking just right.

Curator Jessica Woolf installing the letters

Objects all ready to be installed

Graphics

One of the final elements to slot into place – literally – was the fabric graphic panels. The images and text are printed onto sheets of fabric with reinforced edges which are stretched over and slot into metal frames – known as a Praxis Kube system. These are very tight and require a lot of thumb work, not sure mine have quite recovered yet…

Designer Nick Bell installing one of the graphic panels

UV Torches

Some of the graphic panels in the exhibition contain more than first meets the eye and there are UV torches hanging down from the ceiling to help you explore these hidden elements further. This was the last part of the exhibition to be installed, getting the heights and alignment of the torches right involved the use of one of the Exhibition Officer’s favourite tool: the laser measurer!

Measuring up the placement of the UV torches

Nick Coombe testing out one of the UV torches

Timelapse of the Install

Now let’s speed everything up!

We look forward to welcoming you all to explore this remarkable story further. Voices from the Deep is now open.

– Emma Harper, Exhibitions Officer