Showing off the Best of the West: Plans for our Touring Exhibition

Sharing our plans for the touring exhibition.

Since June we have been working with our appointed exhibition designers – Hotrod Creations and City Insights – to develop ideas for the exhibition, work out what will go in it and decide where it will travel.

What we want the exhibition to do

 Exhibition designers' sketch: Signposting our local heritage.

Exhibition designers’ sketch: Signposting our local heritage.

The aims of our exhibition are very similar to those of the wider project. We want the exhibition to tell visitors about the rich heritage of the West of England and show how this heritage creates our local sense of place. We want visitors to make the connection with their own local heritage and be inspired to explore this further on Know Your Place. And we want to reach new audiences through exciting interpretation and use of digital technology.

Our audiences

We are delighted to already be reaching a range of groups and individuals with an interest in heritage, who perhaps already visit their local archive, volunteer at a museum, or are active in their area as researchers or members of a specialist local group. Chances are that you are reading this blog because you are one of these good people who form our core audience and we value you greatly!

Some of the exhibition audiences we hope to reach.

Some of the exhibition audiences we hope to reach.

However, the audiences for our exhibition are slightly different, as we aim to reach out more widely to local people and families of school-aged children across the area. Consider these as the neighbours, families and friends of our existing audiences above, who don’t share our enthusiasm… yet. The mission of our touring exhibition is to reach these people, many of whom may not yet know – or even care – much about their local history, and to persuade them to think differently about their heritage and to be motivated to find out more.

How do we plan to do it?

By creating four identical exhibitions, which will tour the region simultaneously, visiting 12 venues in six months. This allows our exhibition to reach far more people and places than a single exhibition could. The exhibition is also being delivered online by a WebApp, so those who aren’t able to visit in person can still enjoy it and share it with friends online.

We are working with a large range of partner organisations across the region, from small volunteer-run centres to county-wide collections (we’re in discussion with 34 organisations at last count!) to find out what they have in their collections that they might like to included in the exhibition to represent their region. We’re after digital files – not actual artefacts – that will be displayed on touchscreens.

Obviously, all this is easier said than done! Which is why we are working hard through the summer to put our detailed plans in place ready for touring to begin at the end of October 2016.

What will the exhibition be about?

We want the exhibition to explore the “Best of the West” – what makes the West of England distinctive and special. Heritage partners are working with us to supply digital images / film / audio that reflects their collection and to shape these into stories that give an insight into their local heritage.

On Monday 18th July we ran fully-booked workshops at M Shed in Bristol to tease out the exhibition themes. These generated a lot of interest and altogether 21 colleagues representing 13 organisations attended from: Gloucestershire Archive, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Clevedon Pier, Chippenham Museum, South West Heritage Trust, Aldbourne Heritage Centre, the Museum of East Asian Art, Stradling Collection, Radstock Museum, STEAM, Filton History Group, North Somerset Libraries, and Wells and Mendip Museum.

Coming up with exhibition ideas in one of our workshops.

Coming up with exhibition ideas in a collections workshop.

Over the coming weeks we look forward to working with these and many other partners to bring together the exhibition content.

Where will we be touring?

Our plan is to visit as wide a range of locations and types of venue as possible. We’re talking to cathedrals, shopping malls, libraries and community centres as well as museums, archives and tourist attractions, so look out for us as we may well pop up where you least expect.


Our “Invasion Plan” for the touring exhibition, with possible locations circled.

We are also hoping for broad regional coverage and are contacting potential venues at the moment who could host us for a 6-8 week display sometime between October 2016 and March 2017 in targeted locations. The exhibition needs access to wi-fi and a power supply (domestic mains), be easy to get to for installation, and be in a secure space that can comfortably fit a display that is 8ft high and about 6ft wide and deep.

What happens afterwards?

This is a massive undertaking and we want it to last for longer than the life of our project. So after the exhibition has toured the region, we plan to find permanent loving homes with four project partners who can continue to display or tour the exhibition themselves. Our hope is that the exhibition will be displayed for 3-5 years and any heritage site can link to the exhibition webapp for your own purposes. We also hope that we will be able to map a good proportion of the exhibition content onto Know Your Place itself as a lasting legacy to the project.

Taking Part

If you would like to find out more about taking part in the exhibition please contact us.

You can find further information about the wider project and how we’re working with collections across the region, here.