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Mary Rose – Context Gallery

30/01/2014

The engineering of the Context Gallery showcase system represented an enormous challenge at an unprecedented scale. It was clear from the outset that the ambitious vision of the Architects (Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will; www.pringlebrandonpw.com) and the rigorous environmental requirements of the Mary Rose Trust would necessitate a unique, highly bespoke and extremely specialised showcase solution.

The size and shape of the Context Gallery was very much dictated by that of the Mary Rose itself; the showcase frontage mirroring its decks’ slopes and the internals following the hull’s draft. The majority of the door panels – angled to match the undulation of the floors, with no 2 alike and many weighing upwards of 310kg – required 100% opening access to allow for the loading of the colossal canons that were recovered alongside the infamous ship hull.

In addition to the glass floors allowing you to look down through the ship from an upper deck perspective, the main deck fa├žade is punctuated by 2 recessed “cabins”; essentially glass alcoves, allowing visitors to enter the ship environment and get up closer to the artefacts and under the canons. These presented their own unique challenges as each was a slanted box intersecting building support columns and requiring hinged doors for access.

As the recovered artefacts are highly sensitive to humidity the whole showcase had to be conditioned and controlled and to achieve this effectively, the entire 3 storey by 32m long interconnected volume had to be airtight to a museum standard. This needed detailed coordination and a very particular sequencing of installation with adjoining architectural elements, set works and building services.

The door top locks were often located at a height which would normally require ladder access but since they’d be adjacent to a balustrade, this approach was not practical and we were commissioned to develop a remote door access system. Our solution featured a Bluetooth connected remote control utilising a custom designed door control Android app to power an actuator that moved the door in and out for access. This system proved very successful and will now become an access option on future case types.

Our response to all of these engineering challenges pushed showcase engineering to its limits but resulted in a product of breath-taking appearance, stunning performance and staggering scale, and to our knowledge, is the largest museum standard showcase in the world.

At 32m long and 10m high, this is probably one of the largest museum display cases in the world.

At 32m long and 10m high, this is probably one of the largest museum display cases in the world.

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