A lucky perk of working in the museum industry is the natural cross over between work and play. This summer, I travelled with my family to London, England for a week of theatre, history, and museums. I soaked up an array of experiences that each fed my inspiration in their own way.
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum educates and immerses visitors in British war history from 1914 to present day. Personal narratives of the individual experiences are unveiled through evocative exhibits across 5 storeys. The Holocaust Gallery is engrossing and deeply affecting, with history told through impactful imagery, models of concentration camps, and haunting artifacts. Never mind that photography is not allowed within the gallery; the stories and visuals have stayed with me months after the visit.
The First World War gallery transports visitors back one hundred years, through effective sound design, immersive media, and beautifully designed tactile exhibits. Personal stories are featured throughout, whether through voiceover narration, handwritten letters, or highlighted quotes. Visitors imagine the chaos and devastation as they listen to the sounds of warfare while walking through a recreated trench. They step into the lives of each soldier through the personal artifacts and items on display. The collections are arranged artfully, to contrast the beauty of the presentation with the seriousness of the objects on display.
Weaponry on display at the Imperial War Museum is artfully arranged to juxtapose the collection with the human stories behind each object. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
It was noteworthy how integrated the technology-enabled experiences were to the traditional exhibits. As a visitor, I barely noticed the distinction between screen and panel; instead, my attention was absorbed completely by the story. My family was emotionally exhausted after our visit; rightfully so after absorbing 100 years of war and devastation through highly immersive and affecting exhibits.
Visitors engage with stories of WWI warfare through a projection-based interactive display. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
Our journey continued with a fanciful diversion to a fictional world, via the Harry Potter Studio Tour. This destination far surpassed our expectations of a themed attraction; instead, it came closer to a museum experience. The tour features the sets from the Harry Potter movies, including costumes, props, and full set pieces. Where it may have been tempting to load the experience with high tech wizardry, the designers showed restraint, integrating technology only where it would genuinely spark visitor’s imaginations, such as when the animatronic creatures moved subtly. The result is a delightful foray into movie magic that resonates with authenticity.
Visitors start their tour with a grand unveiling of the Great Hall, complete with costumes and set pieces. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
My favourite aspect of the tour was the focus on the creative process. Process is the thread throughout the experience, whether you are learning about the costume designers or the set builders. Parts of the tour resemble an art gallery, with rooms filled with concept art, blueprints, storyboards, and tiny paper models of every set piece. Visitors dote over the intricacies of the models, the minutia of the blueprints, and the creativity in the artwork. Given my role in a creative industry, I appreciated the focus on process as a learning objective within the tour.
A miniature paper-card model of Hogwarts Castle educates visitors on the creative process of movie magic. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
With only one week to spend, we had to restrain ourselves from creating a trip itinerary that resembled a giant to do list. We chose to savour the ones we saw and save others for next time. Below are a few that made the cut – and stood out from the rest!
The Tower of London
The Tower of London’s dragon of arms follows the tradition of displaying British military strength by creating trophies from masses of weapons. It is a striking piece of work that commands the attention of visitors. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre’s feminist rendition of the Taming of the Shrew is a prime example of storytelling at its finest. The endurance of the 425 year old play acted with a modern twist on the original site of Shakespeare’s theatre speaks for itself. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
The transitory beauty of London’s street art is worthy of a notable mention from our trip, considering the competition it faces with official destinations with hundreds of years of history. Photo Credit: Jessica Doig
-Jessica Doig, VP & Executive Producer