Pompeii and Herculaneum

Black Coffee meet Caramel Waffle……its ‘Pressing time.

Over the last couple of weeks I have continued my interning at New Statesman, which continues to be interesting  as well as challenging in unexpected ways. Towards the end of this week I have been getting my teeth stuck into some graphic tasks to supplement my introduction to Quark. In addition to an in-magazine subscription renewal card (for which I have had the dubious honour of ‘breaking the mould’..!), I have been given the task of designing a small type/logo/graphic for use across a series of articles discussing ‘What Makes Us Human?’. An intriguing prospect. The more I think on it, the more angles I consider might need representing across the different contributing authors. At the moment my ideas are focussing around the scientific arena: DNA, double helix, molecules, brains, thumbprints etc, which can uniquely be described as human. Conversely I feel that this does not represent the spiritual or emotional side of this discussion that will inevitably raised at some point. The type arrangement I am favouring at the moment is distinctly Natural History Museum-esque and may be the source of my favouring this angle however, so I shall try re-imagining this on my notepad very soon.

On a more cultural note however, I was lucky enough to book tickets for the weekend just gone, to see The British Museum’s ‘Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum’. Being a little worse for wear with an inner ear disturbance, I had forgotten to pack my notebook which proved to be a fatal mistake! I am by no means an expert reviewer of exhibitions and this one certainly gives a lot to reflect on in life and death, so I shall stick to my preferences and instead focus on the design elements which most caught my eye.

It seemed to be an exhibition of 2 natures, with a recreation of a villa providing the layout and context for which objects could be displayed to the viewer. This really was a brilliant device that enabled visitors to immerse themselves in a familiar aspect of the past and brutally confront the consequences of the natural disaster that took place. The reconstruction itself was loose and airy, making the most of the blackout materials around the walls of the museum’s inner space and leaving visitors able to gaze up at the expansive dome far above. Perhaps the nicest touch in the heart of the exhibition was a reconstruction of a small columned atrium whose low walls to a projected water pool, served as a seamless point of rest for visitors.Each room gave order to the items and and had its own tone and colour scheme to distinguish it from the others- no cheesy faux marble paint effects here. I would be very interested to know if these shades were lifted from original artefacts, enhancing their authentic feel. Yet this use of colour was fittingly low key, allowing the objects to take centre stage and was echoed throughout by the un-intrusive displays of introductory text mounted on the walls at the entrance to each area. Yet these themselves were by no means invisible, measuring from floor to ceiling (~4x1metre) and often taking the chance to incorporate a simplified floorplan of the villa and a small collection of transparent backlit photographs set behind the boards of text.  It was the layout of these information boards that captured me from the first display, with their unusual layout that reminded me of the impressive and unconventional effects that non-centred layout can generate.

I might have looked unimpressed with my pen scribbling furiously, but standing in a corner of the exhibition with another fellow notebook scribbler, I was able to make some notes about how the signage seemed to be devised. I cannot find any images online to better illustrate them, but I shall keep my eyes open for somebody elses covert snaps when they appear on Google.

I particularly like Adventurer Jack’s take on the exhibition, who I stumbled across in my efforts to find some more enlightening photographs of the sign systems. 

Either way, regardless of my slant, I would encourage anybody to persevere with the queue for daily tickets and see this exhibition before it ends… don’t panic you’ve got until September!

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