One of the challenges of the project was the tight timescale for deliverables and production deadlines that are usually concerned with the nature of temporary exhibitions. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the unexpected challenge of working remotely throughout the project. Checking display case layouts, internal setworks and ordering materials were all tasks that were more complicated to coordinate during a pandemic.
The nature of remote working impacted on access to collection stores and meant that curators and other key members of staff were not physically onsite. The pandemic, along with Brexit, had an impact on the cost of materials as well as caused shortages in supply, e.g. the scarcity of timber.
However, along with the British Museum team, we rose to the challenge of creating a new exhibition under unusual circumstances.
The Client’s vision for ‘The world of Stonehenge’ was to take visitors out of British Museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery in Bloomsbury and immerse them in the age of Stonehenge. Their goal was for the visitors to appreciate the ‘Age of Stonehenge’ as a more rounded ‘world’ that goes beyond ideas of an iconic, unchanging ‘British’ monument built by ‘shadowy’ figures or druids. They wanted the visitor to learn about long-distance connections, mobility and migration between Stonehenge, Britain, Continental Europe and beyond and appreciate the social and cultural significance of those journeys. Another goal of the exhibition was for visitors to understand that events during the ‘Age of Stonehenge’ influenced our view and relationship with nature and landscape today – and be inspired and informed by how past people worked with, connected to, and found religious and spiritual solace in the natural world, as expressed at different scales by individual objects, assemblages, monuments and ceremonial landscapes.
Design + Execution
Our design concept for ‘The world of Stonehenge’ revealed the cyclical connections between people, landscapes and the cosmos. Framed by the arc of the sun, visitors embarked on an epic pilgrimage through the evolving landscapes and complex beliefs of the Stonehenge era.
The design approach transformed the gallery environment and contextualized the objects on display, with the aim of taking visitors on a journey to another time and place; transporting them to the Salisbury Plain where they could witness the iconic winter solstice, a starry night sky, and encounter the people who shaped the World of Stonehenge.
From start to finish, each of the exhibition components, from the materials and colors to the graphics and audio-visual media, had been designed to capture a sense of the changing landscapes of the Stonehenge era. The lighting and orchestration of these elements through space revealed the cyclicality of nature, and the belief systems that connected the landscape around us to the cosmos above.
The graphic design approach utilized large environmental graphics that set the scene of the Stonehenge landscape and worked to bring a sense of a place within the exhibition space. These were abstracted in order to evoke a memory of a place, with a few in-focus images appearing behind key objects, helping to contextualize them.
The interpretation panels were integrated seamlessly and blended within the setwork as well as some Touchstone moments standing out from the display alongside shapes that evoked stone-like forms.
Phillip Tefft (project director)
Caroline Sjöholm (lead 3d designer)
Bob de Graaf, Cristina Salvi (3d designer)
Mat Mason (lead 2d designer)
Laurène Ciocco (2d designer)
Helen Schulte (content developer)
Sadie Levy Gale, Charlotte Stevens (content coordinator)
Fraser Randall (project managers)
Beam (lighting designers)