Last week I got the opportunity through work to pay a visit to Monaghan County Museum. As a former intern with Monaghan I was very keen to get back to see all the staff and also check out their new exhibition, ‘Castle Leslie. Between Two Worlds’.
I have been involved in the installation of exhibitions before in Monaghan and the staff are fantastically skilled in that their exhibitions are always of an extremely high standard. With that in mind I expected the exhibition to be good but I was blown away by how superb it is. The attention to detail and the lengths they have gone to, to bring the Leslie’s family story to life made for a breath taking display.
The gallery that the exhibition is in is a large room with plenty of space for cases and an ample amount of wall space for panels and pictures. The space has been used extremely well, when looking around you can see that there is a huge amount on display, there are up on one hundred images/photographs hung around the walls. This may seem like a lot but the space never seems over crowded. The images really bring the story to life. The museum were fortunate in that this exhibition was created in conjunction with the Leslie family and so photographs that may never have been viewed by the public before are now available for public consumption.
There is also a great collection of artefacts on display, the majority on loan from the Leslie estate and some that have been brought in to supplement the story. One of the cases that particularly held my attention was the one filled with objects that would have been used by the Lady of the House. Here we find gloves and jewellery and also something which I was quite jealous of, a personalised deck of cards. This display is very eye catching and will appeal to anyone out there who dreamed of being from a wealthy family and getting to dress up in beautiful gowns and finery.
The story of the Leslie family is one that is very well known to the people of Monaghan, the exhibition will appeal greatly to anyone who is from the county. Working there for just under a year I still managed to see Sir Jack pottering about Monaghan with his infamous feather in his cap. Only the wealthy can get away with such eccentricity! The exhibition deals with the different members of the family quite well, devoting nearly equal space and detail to the each person.
This case on loan from the Leslie Estate has a fantastic collection of medals which were awarded to various members of the family.
The Leslies were victims of the Titanic and the result of this tragedy had a lasting effect on their lives. This part of the exhibition is conveyed quite beautifully with the behind wall painted a light blue, the colour of the ocean. It has a lasting effect as it makes that area of the gallery appear cold, such as the ocean would have been on that faithful day.
Sir Jack was held prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany for five years and was significant in forging documents for would be-escapers. These little details of the families life helps to bring the story to life. Some of the family members were very influential and both Shane and Desmond were writers. Shane was a poet and much of his work can still be got today. Desmond was the eccentric in the family in that he became obsessed with UFOS and wrote extensively on the subject. This aspect of the family history is one that is synonymous with the Leslie’s and the local people will be quick to offer up this titbit of information.
The gallery is broken up into various spaces which help to bring the story to life. In the image to the left you can see that the area was created to look like a writing room. This details and creative spaces make it interesting for the visitor. As you walk around the gallery you are transported to different locations and so can relate to the story more effectively.
Overall I have to say that the exhibition is a huge success in that it tells the story of an infamous family without being intrusive in their lives. The gallery space is well utilised and offers up interesting and innovative ways of hanging. One space in particular that I was impressed by was a hanging system on chains over a wall sized canvas of flowers and birds. This space is beautifully done, I was told by a member of staff that an artist spent a full day painting on two large canvases on the walls. These spaces look spectacular and really add to the feel of the exhibition. Both have been turned into room spaces that depict a bathroom and a courtyard area. These are fantastically done and catch the eye as soon as you enter the gallery.
This is another example of how Monaghan have created spaces to convey a mood or feeling. You can see the chain hanging system on the wall to the right. There is also a servants bell which visitors are invited to ring.
I think as a museum professional it is vital to visit other museums and get the opportunity to see what they are doing. I rarely visit somewhere that I don’t come away inspired. Looking at other exhibitions helps me to learn and come up with new ways of displaying artefacts and conveying stories. If I had to pinpoint one thing that I was most impressed with at this exhibition was the way they have used the space. By creating smaller isolated ‘rooms’ the story that is being told in that section of the exhibition comes across more vividly. This is a colourful, vibrant and interesting exhibition. The detail and skill in which it is presented makes for an enjoyable visit and you leave the exhibition longing to return, which as anyone in this industry will know definitely makes for a successful exhibition. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be returning. I would highly recommend it to everyone.