Senior Collections Officer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Julien Parsons spoke to us recently about the challenges and successes of the recent redevelopment.
“The redevelopment of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter has taken about a decade to complete from initial discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to the re-opening of the museum in December 2011. Before the project, RAMM was a well-performing regional museum attracting around 250,000 visitors a year, but many of the displays needed modernising and the building needed improved visitor access and facilities. The project cost almost £24 million in total, with funds coming mainly from the HLF and Exeter City Council.
RAMM’s collections are amongst the best in a regional museum in the UK, consisting of over one million individual objects and specimens from all over the globe. The exhibition design by Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) has created a visually stunning voyage of discovery for visitors; galleries draw on a wide variety of collections to tell the history of the museum, its collectors and the stories behind our objects and specimens.
As with all major capital projects, we faced challenges of time and budget. Unexpected structural issues with the Victorian museum meant that the building phase was behind schedule, with consequences for the design and fitting out of the galleries. We worked closely with RAA and our fit-out contractors Benbow to bring the scheme back to budget, but the timetable was always challenging. ClickNetherfield needed to respond to both the budget and timetable without compromising on the quality of the finished product.
The staff at RAMM couldn’t have prepared themselves for the public reaction to the new displays; over 100,000 visitors in the first 10 or so weeks. Some periods were so busy that the doors had to close because the building was at capacity! The top terms used to describe the museum are ‘high quality’, ‘educational’ and ‘family friendly’, and RAMM has earned a coveted spot amongst the ten names on the 2011 Art Fund prize for museums and galleries.
The design and quality of ClickNetherfield’s showcases have allowed RAMM’s display scheme to work so successfully. We needed to achieve the necessary environmental conditions within cases, including many different types of material, and a simple and unfussy look to the cases to ensure that the visitors’ attention was focused on the displayed objects. It was also important that ClickNetherfield worked closely with our fit-out contractors, Benbow who were responsible for much of the internal architecture of the cases. The final result is a testimony to the strength of the whole display team.”