‘Please Do Touch!’ The Walker Art Gallery Part One.

Alrightttt, what about ye? (you need to say this in a very thick scouse accent!) I recently attended the Museums Association 2013 in Liverpool. I wrote about my experience at the conference here and here.

On the first ‘proper’ day of our trip (we had flown the previous night) we visited the magnificent St. George’s Hall. It is one of Liverpool’s most iconic buildings. It is Georgian in it’s design and splendour. Think tall columns, Roman design and Regency interiors. Here’s a night time shot I took of the building. It’s truely breathtaking and needs to be seen to be believed!

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St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, 2013. Click to enlarge!

The next day (Sunday 10th) my other half and I attended a Remembrance Sunday Service at St. George’s Hall. It was truely moving and it was fantastic to see such a good turn out and all the veterans. The War Memorial itself is an amazing piece of sculpture in granite and cast iron. There are friezes of men, women and children on one side and soldiers on the other. I was able to take some close up pictures of the frieze of the soldiers. See below.

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‘Cast Iron frieze of WW1 Soldiers,’ St. George’s Hall War Memorial, Liverpool 2013.

After the remembrance day service, we visited The Walker Art Gallery. The Walker Art Gallery has a large collection of paintings, deocrative arts, ceramics, textiles from the 13th Century to the present day. It is set in a former county courts building, which was also built in the Georgian era. Those Georgian’s certainly knew how to build impressive structures! The Walker also hosts artefacts, paintings, drawings etc by Liverpool artists as well as objects from or based around Liverpool.

The first gallery hosted information on how important Liverpool docks were to the trade of England and the British Empire. There were items from the 18th Century up until the modern day. There were examples of porcelain, wine, ale, clothes, teapots etc that were brought in merchant ships to Liverpool. Within these display cases there were modern items alongside their historic counterparts. My other half agreed that this really let the modern viewer how things have changed over the centuries. The swan blackened porcelain teapot featured below, is the most beautiful teapot I have ever seen. What I would not give to own it!

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‘Blackened porcelain teapot, c19th Century.’

One of the most effective displays were two displays of a table setting for a poor person alongside a table setting for a rich person in the 18th Century. It really told the story of how vastly different the items available to different classes were according to their wealth. Below you can see the upper class table setting:

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Willow pattern fine bone china plate, soup tureen, jug.

Silver & Ivory fork and knife. Crystal glass ware. c18th Century.’

One of my favourite aspects of this area of the exhibition were the interactive ‘TV’S and ‘Please Do Touch’ panels. The ‘TV’S had telephones attached to them which you pick up and then select an item on the touch screen to hear more about. These items included 18th Century teapots, Merchant Ships, Ropes etc- basically anything and everything to do with the Liverpool Docks! The ‘Please Do Touch Panels,’ had various types of replica porcelain from the 18th century to modern day for people to touch and feel. I thought this was an ingenious idea and more museums should use this approach.

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          Interactive ‘TV.’

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‘Please Do Touch’ panels.

The ‘Please Do Touch’ panels are effective as they let people feel what items would have been like in previous centuries. They give people a sense of how items change in their design and use over long periods of time. Taking the ‘kinsetic’ approach to learning into consideration, the panels are an excellent way to let school children interact with museum objects. This can be done without harming any real artefacts. I also think ‘Please Do Touch’ panels would be effective for partially sighted or blind people. Essentially, an excellent way of interacting with ALL members of the public!

From what I saw of The Walker Art Gallery in my first half an hour of being there, it was very promising. Here was a Gallery using a lot of modern museum practice in it’s exhibits, layout, objects, being accessible to all members of society and approach to lighting, conservation etc. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the gallery and I shall discuss the remainder of the permanent exhibition space, paintings and the David Hockney temporary exhibition in my next post. I feel that one blog post won’t do the Walker Art Gallery justice!

If you remember Art Attack, ‘Turrah! For Now!’

All photos (c) Rachel Sayers 2013 unless stated/linked.

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