On 22 September, the acclaimed new Egypt galleries at Bolton Museum opened to an incredible 10,000 first-day visitors. The exhibition design and fit-out was handled from concept to installation by Leach Studio, who worked alongside client Bolton Council and main contractor Willmott Dixon.
Funded entirely by Bolton Council, six gallery spaces have been completely renovated, with new designs telling the story of Bolton Museum’s exceptional Ancient Egypt collection. Leach Studio were responsible for the design of the gallery spaces, artefact displays and visitor engagements and were involved from concept design through to completion.
An introductory exhibition, also designed by Leach Studio is funded by the DCMS & Wolfson Foundation and gives visitors a fresh first impression of the museum through an introduction to the people of Bolton.
Throughout the Egyptian galleries, the exhibits tell two strands of the same story; firstly, the ancient story of the objects themselves, how they were made and used, who they belonged to and where they are from in both time and place. The galleries also tell the more recent story of the objects; how they came to be acquired by Bolton Museum, the very founding of the museum itself and the people – curators and collectors – who contributed so much to creating an incredible collection.
The ‘Making of a Museum’ gallery transports visitors back in time to Victorian Queen’s Park, where the predecessor of today’s museum once stood: The Chadwick Museum. A whimsical experience features a giant interactive dolls’ house of the Chadwick Museum, complete in parkland setting, with grass, an Oak tree and bright, sunny skies (despite being a fully internal room!).
Other galleries capitalise on true natural light from spectacular windows and refurbished roof lights. Filled with colour from over 72 metres of bespoke, illustrated murals, daily Egyptian life is celebrated in a vibrant display. Five self-supporting glass structural arches create a walkway, surrounding visitors with collection artefacts in a mass display.
“Our brief was to create an exhibition which would showcase the collection to the best of its potential as well as delivering a scheme which would be welcoming and engaging for local visitors and families,” Nichola Ward, Head of Creative for Leach Studio. “We proposed bold and innovative design solutions which have resulted in fun and exciting gallery spaces, including some very unique interactive engagements. It’s been a privilege to work with an internationally significant collection and I hope we have created a space where this can be enjoyed by visitors to the museum for a long time to come.”
In total, more than 2,000 artefacts are displayed, giving visitors greater access to the collection than ever before. This includes an intricately-carved temple column fragment, weighing in at a colossal two tonnes as well as sensitive displays of human remains. This included a bespoke designed display case for a male mummy, positioned within a full-scale recreation of the tomb of Thutmose III. The tomb walls, which depict the journey to the afterlife, are interpreted through an immersive animation projection which brings the illustrations to life.
Sam Elliott, Crescent and Collections Manager said: “On our opening day the museum received more than 10,000 visitors, testament to how much this means to local people. The new galleries have received outstanding praise from visitors, council members and sector colleagues thanks to the hard work of our museum team and the exceptional quality of the design and delivery from our partners at Leach Studio.”
Leach Studio are interpretive designers, experienced in creating exhibitions and interpretive displays for museums, galleries, heritage sites and visitor attractions. The team have also recently helped to secure Heritage Lottery funding for a number of projects currently being delivered: Derby Silk Mill, Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds and ‘Newton’s Place’ Museum for Newton Abbot Town Council. Find out more on the website: https://leachstudio.com/