Installing 'Beside the Seaside': Episode 1

The sun is shining and there's an autumnal crispness about the air - just the kind of day to get things done! We begin installation of our next temporary exhibition, Beside the Seaside, in earnest today. The gallery space has been transformed - there are now few traces of Sailor Chic, the last exhibition we had in there, although most of this is only temporary. Sustainability is an important issue for the Museum, so we've kept the Sailor Chic showcases; they're now hidden behind the new walls and we're planning to reuse them in a future exhibition. But what's really transformed the space is the colour - bright yellow and blue, to evoke that seaside-y feeling - and the removal of the large costume showcase in the middle of the gallery. It really makes the exhibition area feel huge! Some of the exhibition graphics have already gone up - huge graphic wallpapers derived from the images we're using in the exhibition. Today, the first lot of framed photographs will go up on the wall, which should really give us a sense of how the exhibition's going to look.
The graphic panels arrive in the gallery
The exhibition uses images reproduced from the Museum's extensive historic photographs collection. As the collection is so huge, we decided to focus on England and Wales - on places that people might be familiar with, even though many of the images were taken over a hundred years ago. There should be some things that are recognisable, but others that aren't - and we were particularly keen to make sure that people featured heavily. We decided to arrange the exhibition geographically, by region, but themes such as work and leisure come through strongly. Through the images and the histories of the towns and villages featured, you can see how the British seaside developed in the 19th century - the importance of the railways and the patronage of rich and powerful people, for example. You can also see the immense variety and beauty of the coastline and the myriad ways that people have made their living from it. I love poring over old photographs - the delight is often in the detail, or the remembrance of your own experiences - so I hope visitors will get as much pleasure from seeing the images as we did choosing them.