The Bowes Museum
The Fashion & Textile Gallery
The Fashion & Textile collection at Bowes is one of the largest and most significant in Europe, and includes the priceless Blackborne Lace Collection.
Working with Keeper of Textiles Joanna Hashagen we realised that in this one gallery we could do more than simply show the collection. The result is a visually stunning, multi-functional space.
The use of clear acrylic torsos and film footage is crucial as they reflect the movement inherent in textiles & dress which is often lost when using traditional lifeless mannequins.
The permanent displays give a chronological overview of textiles and dress from the 17th century to the 1960s.
We developed five huge peninsular cases to provide infinitely flexible enclosures. Objects are displayed in layers by suspending them from the case ceiling following our detailed object layouts.
The Glass Cube is the heart of the gallery. It’s a space where groups can attend a talk, access the stored collection and where conservators can work.
The Cube demonstrates to visitors the true function of museums - to conserve, store and give access to the fascinating stories behind the collection.
The decision to develop individually made ‘invisible mannequins’ for the dress collection has proved extremely successful.
Visitors are able to see inside the garments, where glimpses of construction method or maker‘s labels add a great deal to the story behind the object.
Paintings and historic film have been carefully chosen to put the collection in context far more effectively than could be achieved by using figures alone.
Without the need to read text, visitors gain an insight into who wore the clothes, where they would be worn, the social status of the wearer and how the clothing affected the way they moved and behaved.
60 quilts, 40 tapestries, 2000 pieces of lace - all in bespoke storage within the gallery.
We designed the gallery in a way which solved the acute storage problem. Remote control units allowed us to maximise the use of the 5m high gallery for both display and storage.
Since opening, feedback from museum professionals and the public has been overwhelmingly positive.
The new gallery pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved on a low budget and demonstrates how exhibition design can be both engaging and functional.
Other Projects for the Bowes Museum:
Over the last 20 years we have designed several temporary exhibitions for the museum including: Fine and Fashionable: Lace from the Blackborne Collection, People and Patterns, Quilts, Wedding Belles and Royal Milliners
We also provided design concepts for the Heritage Lottery Fund bid document, to gain funding to redevelop the whole museum.