In the light of the failure of the NRM+ funding bid, is it possible to outline a different conceptual manner for developing interpretation at the NRM? On the 5th May 2011 I emailed the museum director with the substance of what follows. I now have his reply to the effect that this is not an issue for discussion. What do my readers think?
Originally the core of what follows was something that I put to Andrew Scott (the then director) in some detail probably about 1997 (it would need some digging out). The issue of the narrative and of utilising other exhibits apart from the rolling stock was well and truly alive then. My take on how to do this has always been a bit different. I am inherently suspicious of block buster interpretation projects. They jam up the ordinary life of a museum, eventually they get delivered (though the cost of the varied attempts to assemble a package may easily be forgotten, who remembers the Rapid City proposal for the NRM?). They are then flavour of the month for quite some while until the whole entity starts to look tired. It becomes a huge version of stop start.
I proposed to Andrew Scott an entirely different method of doing this. It was incremental. It said something like identify 10 core threads. Locate the space. If necessary build or convert a structure as the house. But then install the story gradually. Take 10 years to do it. Spread the cost. Ensure there is a new element each year. Balance the demands on preparing the exhibition with the staff resources available. Avoid a massive fund raising burst which if it did not deliver crashed. But build up the expertise of the team who delivered on the subject. This means really tapping into knowledge rather than consultant froth and haste. The Ferry Tales exhibition of 2010 struck me as executed in haste.
And after 10 years, element 1 of 10 would probably look tired. So retaining the team, redo it, find new artefacts to tell a similar story. The result would be something ever changing and alive and developing the in house skill base and knowledge. And I would have thought easier to fund than the splurge approach.
And if it meant that the sense of worship and cathedral atmosphere of the Great Hall was not tampered with, I would not be sad.