Most hands-on galleries of this nature tend to have a lifetime of 10 to 15 years and we were very fortunate that the team behind the development of the original gallery did such a good job that its content never tired even if the exhibits started showing their age and the overall look and feel by 2000 felt distinctly late 1980s.
While the gallery was much loved by our visitors, all good things must come to an end and it was decided in late 2008 to replace it with a new gallery that dealt with the science of the human body.
Much of 2009 was spent talking to possible funders about our ideas for the gallery to find out if they would be interested in seeing a formal proposal. This initial idea was to create a journey of discovery to explore and enjoy what makes us unique and have an opportunity to compare ourselves to others through a series of playful challenges. The gallery would explain how the human body works as well as generating curiosity and stimulating questions about contemporary issues related to health and well-being.
Interest from the Wellcome Trust gave us the confidence to start the in-depth work needed to develop the new multi-million pound gallery. This involved talking to local children about what they thought about how the human body works and what they might like to see included in a new gallery.
We also visited other visitor attractions for inspiration. One thing we didn’t want to do was to re-invent the wheel, so we asked our panel of children which elements of the old gallery they wanted to keep in the new one, as well as adding in things we felt were lacking from a contemporary human body exhibition for children.
Our plans convinced the Wellcome Trust to be our lead funder and provide 50% of the money we needed for the project.
The commitment of the Wellcome Trust meant we could then start working with our key external consultants – Ideas United, a panel of local school children.
Ideas United helped us form the hands-on elements we wanted to have in the gallery. A team of exhibition designers then helped give shape and structure to their concepts.
From March 2011 to March 2013 we consulted, evaluated, tested, played with, discarded, re-invented and re-engineered a myriad of ideas with Ideas United, the designers and other specialists. We have also checked we’re staying true to the original vision and used a panel of experts to avoid becoming too insular whilst embedded into such a large, complex project. The installation of the new exhibition started as soon as the old one had closed and after 4 months of intense activity the new gallery was ready.
Finally, all that was needed was a new name and we found it underneath our noses. One of the zones in the new gallery had a working title which seemed perfect, and so, All About Me was born guided by the ideas, creativity and enthusiasm of many experts but mostly of our local school children.
This blog also appeared as a column in the Friday 12 April edition of the Halifax Courier.