In a recent blog post; we introduced a project called Faith in Birmingham to create a new gallery exploring the range of faiths practiced in the city
We recently held our second meeting of the Faith in Birmingham: Working Group, specially established to help shape and inform the direction of the gallery. The group is made up of local individuals who practice one of the six faiths that the gallery will cover it its first year; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. They have very generously given us their time to join us on this journey and will meet monthly until February.
In this, the second meeting, we moved on to focus on perhaps the three most crucial factors when planning a new gallery, the design, layout and objects.
We showed the group some initial design ideas for their feedback. It was really interesting to see their reaction to design elements, such as symbols and shapes, that we thought represented certain religions but in actual fact might not be quite right.
We then looked at our initial ideas for the layout and floor plan of the gallery.
There are many different options for how the objects can be arranged, depending very much on the stories we want to tell and ideas we want to convey. For example, should objects be grouped together by their faith or arranged thematically? We produced a variety of example floor plans to discuss. With so many possibilities available the group had many ideas and thoughts on the topic. Though not yet resolved we have lots to build on!
We then moved on to looking at and discuss possible objects that might go on display in the gallery. Birmingham Museums has a vast collection of objects, many of which relate to faith. This beautiful stained glass window from a local church, for example, has very clear connections to Christianity and was very popular with the group.
With other objects their connection to a faith is less obvious.
This helmet dates from 1750, Iran, and is decorated with sacred or poetic Arabic quotations that may be from the Qur’an. It is currently displayed as part of a case exploring the subject of calligraphy however it could just as easily be in the Faith Gallery in a display about Islam.
These types of decisions are what we will keep challenging the Faith Working Group with over the coming months.
To learn more about the Faith Gallery development do visit our stand at the Museum Collections Centre Open Day on September 12th.
Images: Luke Unsworth