China: Journey to the East – putting Museums Sheffield’s stamp on a touring exhibition

Jan 06 2012

For the past few months we have been busy working alongside staff at the British Museum to bring China: Journey to the East, a treasure trove of an exhibition, to Sheffield as the final leg of a national tour.  As families and schools are key audiences for us at Weston Park, we needed to ensure the exhibition was colourful and enticing as well as balanced for all ages.  We animated the displays with a sniff box of Chinese spices, a sound panel that plays recordings of different musical instruments, as well as a dressing up area for young visitors with panda and dragon costumes. Our puppet theatre, ideal for creative play and storytelling, has 12 bespoke hand puppets of the Chinese zodiac animals and is proving incredibly popular with all ages!
A major part of creating a new visual identity for the exhibition was to engage local designers The Cafeteria, who in turn commissioned illustrator Jonny Wan to develop a strong lead graphic and individual icons to represent the different exhibition themes.  Inspired by 2012 being the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, the main image of the dragon is highly detailed, brightly coloured and uses complex layered shapes, typical of Jonny’s graphic style. The images he created for the themed sections are reminiscent of traditional Chinese paper cuts but with a contemporary twist. We applied them to suspended banners and hung clusters of lanterns around them to give some texture, height and sense of theatricality to the displays.
Interspersed amongst the British Museum objects are selected gems from Sheffield’s collections. These include stunning examples of the Grice ornamental ivories, works on paper by Chiang Yee on display for the first time and a lion dance costume.
We were conscious that the objects on display were largely representative of China’s rich history but we also wanted to give our visitors a flavour of contemporary China. Working with the Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield, we developed two image slideshows of people and landscapes drawn from the talented entrants of their annual photographic competition. These are juxtaposed with black and white films from the British Pathe archive to give a sense of the contrasts and continuities between China’s past and present.

You can view a slideshow of some of the objects featured in the exhibition on our flickr page:


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