Exhibitions, iPads and the odd glass of Prosecco…

In the process of installing the exhibition

"As an Art History student I often spend many hours wandering around museums and art galleries admiring the artworks, yet I had little idea of how museums and galleries are run on a day-to-day basis. Object handling, cataloguing, researching and installing exhibitions were some of many curatorial processes I had heard about in lectures, but had never done myself. Yet I got the chance to when I was kindly offered two weeks of work experience at the De Morgan Centre.

Technology is rapidly becoming more and more advanced, and now many museums are beginning to introduce technology into the museum space, through the use of apps, iPads, virtual gallery tours and more. The William De Morgan ceramics in the gallery currently do not have labels within their cases. However, due to the recent purchase of an iPad, I could help put together informative slides about individual ceramics in the collection, meaning visitors now have easy access to information in the gallery. The aim at the centre is to promote the De Morgan's work by reaching as wide an audience as possible. Therefore, I helped out on developing our page for the social media website 'Historypin', which maps historical events and objects through time and place. Through my time here at the De Morgan Centre, I have realised how much technology and social media is beginning to shape the way museums operate and how information is disseminated. 

The iPad in the gallery now displays detailed information about William's ceramics

When I was told that I would be removing some of William's irreplaceable ceramics from their cases and then cleaning them, I was a tad uneasy. I kept having visions of chipping, dropping, scratching or in some way causing irreparable damage to these works. However, they were cleaned and placed back in their cases after many indrawn breaths, and I am glad to say that my first experience of object handling was without any disastrous consequences. Being able to be up close and personal to the pieces is a different experience from viewing them behind glass. Through handling the ceramics I could gauge how sturdy the pieces actually are, and truly appreciate the spectacular lustre finish.

Exhibitions come and go at the De Morgan Centre, and I happened to get the chance to dismantle an exhibition on Old Battersea House and install 'Observed and Made', a selling exhibition by two established ceramic artists; Joanna Veevers and Sasha Wardell. I had been to plenty of exhibitions, but was yet to see the installation process. Jo came along to help give us direction, and it was interesting to see the creative process behind it. Items are not simply put anywhere in an exhibition, they are sorted and grouped thoughtfully to create coherence, often through colour, size, shape, and at times gut instinct.

The temporary exhibition space after all our hard work was finished

After all the hard work, reward came in the private exhibition view. Friends of the gallery and the artists came for an evening to view the artworks, celebrate with a glass of prosecco (or two) and make some purchases. It was a nice way to conclude my time at the De Morgan Centre, and the exhibition looked great. So what did I learn from this experience?  That a lot of time and energy goes into the upkeep of the Centre by the curators and volunteers. There is a long creative process behind forming the exhibitions, from adapting and arranging the exhibition space to advertising and also in evolving the permanent collection to keep it current and informative. My time here has also given me some food for thought. I graduate next summer and am faced with the question of what I want to do next. I may still be unsure, but working at the De Morgan Centre has given me some insight into what options are available to me."

Sarah Phillips, Work Experience

Many thanks to Sarah, whose help has been invaluable this past fortnight!