Telling the story: Swansea Museum

Ƥǿşŧḗḓ ƀẏ: Catherine Clarke 6 years, 6 months ȧɠǿ

One of the outcomes of our research project is an exhibition at Swansea Museum, opening Saturday 21 June, 2014. In the early stages of developing the content and structure for this exhibition, we're already starting to think through some of the differences between sharing our research in a traditional academic publication and in the format of a museum display. We're not just thinking about communicating with different audiences, but also how the different conventions of a museum exhibition demand that we think differently about narrative and structure.

We're able to draw on the collections of Swansea Museum to help tell our the story of William Cragh and medieval Swansea - a great opportunity for us to make use of artefacts which are held by the Museum, some of which are not currently on display. The Museum holds medieval coins which show the Anglo-Norman control of Wales, religious objects which reflect the kind of popular piety seen in Mary de Briouze's devotion to Thomas de Cantilupe, and items associated with eating and drinking which link to life in the castle. Collections also include medieval weaponry, which speaks to the violent context of the Cragh story, and decorative artefacts (including floor tiles) with images of noble life. For those of us on the project more used to working with texts (whether literary or cartographic), exploring how we can tell the Cragh story through objects is a challenging and productive process.

The Museum exhibition presents another key difference from an academic article or book. Visitors won't necessarily look at each panel in any fixed order - instead, they will explore the Cragh story in a non-linear format as they move amongst the displays. This actually resonates with some of the challenges presented by our source material: we're not working with one, coherent account of the hanging of William Cragh, but rather lots of different versions which we have to navigate between. Moving away from a linear narrative encourages us to think about the key themes we want to draw out, and how we can enable visitors to the exhibition to make links between varying witness statements (or to ide.jpgy the differences between them).

We're also planning to use QR (Quick Response) codes in the exhibition, which visitors can scan with a smartphone to take them to relevant sections of the project website. This way, again, we hope that objects in the museum collection, and the short interpretation panels in the exhibition, will provide a jumping-off point for further exploration of medieval Swansea and the William Cragh story.