Jun 25 2013
Museums Sheffield's Exhibition & Display Manager, Kirstie Hamilton on creating a world of colour for the latest exhibition at Weston Park.
The very first line of interpretation text I wrote for our Colour Coded exhibition was: Imagine a world without colour. When I first entered the gallery to start the installation of the exhibition, this didn’t take a great deal of imagination; the walls were grey, the display cases were grey and the whole atmosphere was, well, grey. As the days have passed it's been wonderful to observe the metamorphosis the space has gone through, and have the opportunity to consider the incredible capacity for colour to truly affect our perception and mood. And while colour alone undoubtedly brings joy, displaying the objects and works of art for this exhibition has made me realise that the marrying colour with a great story is a magical combination indeed.
Colour Coded started life as a loose idea around curating an exhibition from Sheffield's collection on the theme of colour. Our first instinct was to display only the fantastic abstract paintings, but that seemed too easy. We really wanted to use this opportunity to look at the diversity of Sheffield's collections, so I decided to visit our store and talk to each of the individual curators about the collections they care for. As we started to discuss display options I was really inspired by the way some of these objects could introduce different notions and facts about colour.
The first star object we came across was in the Social History collection – a bright purple wedding dress dating from the 1860s, its colour as vibrant now as it was then and an object that, according to our records, had never been displayed. Not only is this a beautiful dress, but it signifies a real landmark – the dress’s colour comes from the first synthetic dye ever made. This advance in manufacture led directly to widespread affordability and all the shades of the rainbow now being available to us in so many different ways.
Sheffield's collections are so rich and varied the wedding dress was just one of many objects we discovered that had so much more to say; as I've unpacked them for the exhibition I’ve been inspired by them all over again. This breadth of exhibits brings together the seemingly mundane and the truly exceptional, yet each of these objects play an equal role in telling the story of colour. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I have.
Colour Coded continues at Weston Park until 26 January 2014 – entry to the exhibition is free.
Image: Ladies shoes, 1700s, satin. Photo © Museums Sheffield