hsd were appointed by Down District Council in October 2013 to provide exhibition design services for the Down County Museum extension project. The primary purpose of the extension was to provide a secure and protected environment for the Downpatrick High Cross.
hsd designed the Early Christian and Land & Sea Galleries which interpret the history and iconography focussed around the 1100 year Downpatrick High Cross. The Cross has been restored and takes centre stage in the Early Christian Gallery, alongside associated objects, relating to the Hill of Down. This is the place where St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is said to have been buried in the fifth century, bringing to life the importance of the Early Christian history in the area.
“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is proud to open this new high cross extension at the museum for the benefit of local people and tourists to the area, to tell captivating stories from our shared history, especially the story of our local Patrician and Early Christian heritage which is recognised world-wide,” said Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Naomi Bailie.
The Land & Sea Gallery is to make the important agricultural and maritime collections in the museum more accessible. The main theme, Harvest from Land and Sea, is based on the different types of farm / exploitation of land and sea for food and the processes involved. The main emphasis in this gallery is on people and their lives, and the changing processes of farming life.
Head of Project Management at hsd, Ron Watson, said: “The Down County Museum extension project was an extremely exciting opportunity for us. Through the extension of the museum, new exhibitions, learning and social meeting spaces have been created, enabling visitors to explore the collections held by the museum.”
“During the consultation phase we anticipated the gallery spaces to be busy, therefore both galleries have a mix of perimeter displays to help maximise the display space for collections. Freestanding island modules in the central areas of the galleries send visitors on a ‘journey’ as they circulate through the galleries.”
Local lead consultants in the design and procurement of the extension building were Architects Hutcheson Irvine Partnership, from Bangor, County Down. Partner Gerald Irvine, led a multidisciplinary team in designing the six spaces that make up the extension.
“Not only was it an extension to an historic listed building, it also had to house a very historic and meaningful collection,” said Irvine. “The limited access for manoeuvring and handling of materials determined the building be designed in structural bays, enabling each bay to be erected and almost completed as the contractor progressed and moved out of the site.
“Although not within view from the approaches to the Museum, the cubic unadorned exterior gives little away as to what lies inside this extension. The chosen height of unprotected transparent apertures prevent opportunities to see in, but allow the landscape views to be part of the visitor experience inside. The extensions material, scale and proportion express a subservient solidity juxtaposed with the historic walls of massive stone that stand defensive as ever for the once Gaol building.”
Having worked on privately owned museums, exhibition and art gallery spaces, this historic project in a historic town, will be addition to Hutcheson Irvine’s growing portfolio of work in the heritage, conservation and museum and exhibition sector.
hsd also worked closely with Marcon Fit-Out, who were responsible for the fit-out of the new museum space. Utilising their specialist joinery workshop to manufacture key elements of the museum, Marcon’s heritage team also managed the successful installation of the graphics, audio visual and display case elements of the project.
Marcon Fit-Out Director, Mark O’Connor said: “We are really pleased to have been involved in this scheme, fitting out the new space within Down County Museum. This challenging museum project adds to our growing reputation within this sector and demonstrates the expertise of our dedicated heritage team.”
hsd has recently completed the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s two new museums, Schomberg House in Belfast and Sloan’s House in Loughgall and has also worked the Ulster Museum in the past.
In the US hsd is currently working on several exciting new projects including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument & State Park in Maryland, United States.