How do you build a new exhibition around a boat?
That was the challenge we faced when Jersey Heritage approached us to design a new installation to house the Diana, a 22-foot motorboat involved in some of the Island’s most famous maritime events of the 20th century.
Originally a ship’s lifeboat, she was brought to Jersey in 1919 by shipping agent Harold Benest, who also acted as the local Lloyd’s Agent, and was still in active use nearly a hundred years later.
Now fully restored, she forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition space at the Maritime Museum which charts the history of ‘The Diana – Small Boat with a Big Story’ – and it was our job to come up with a way of interpreting that story.
Having made a number of site visits to the existing workshop area which was to house the Diana, we had the idea of physically recreating a harbour environment within this space to give the sense of the boat being moored by the quayside.
We invested a lot of time and thought into the planning process and visited a number of local harbours to get an idea of the type of features we wanted to incorporate in the installation. Following an extensive briefing, photographer Gary Grimshaw was then commissioned to capture the look and feel of some of our existing small harbours. This involved working mostly at midday, when the sun was overhead, and from a raised position, to ensure there weren’t any shadows in his photography. His images were then reworked by our design team and carefully pieced together to recreate a series of different granite and water features, to which we added specially-designed bollards and chains to complete the effect.
Everyone involved was extremely pleased with the end result, and we feel we’ve successfully captured the changing light and patterns of places like the French Harbour and Bonne Nuit – so much so that one of our colleagues remarked that you could almost see the ripples moving in the dark plastic laminates we used to represent the imaginary waters in which the Diana is berthed.
As well as transforming the interior of the workshop, we also had to give careful consideration to the layout and flow both of the ‘cobbled’ walkway around the exhibit and the interpretative panels mounted on the walls, whilst also allowing for a small viewing area from which to watch the short film that accompanies the exhibition. That’s not forgetting the need to ensure full disabled access in such tight confines whilst ensuring that the information we presented was at an appropriate height for as wide an audience as possible.
Using SketchUp (formerly Google Sketchup), we designed a series of illustrated panels charting the history of the Diana, from her involvement in events such as the search for the lost flying boat Cloud of Iona (which disappeared on a flight between Jersey and Guernsey in July 1936) right through to November 2014 when she was taken out of the water for the last time.
Most famously, in June 1940, she was one of a number of small boats from Jersey involved in the evacuation of British and Allied troops from St Malo, and subsequently took part in the anniversary flotillas to commemorate both the 60th and 70th anniversary of this action, known as Operation Aerial.
In recognition of the efforts of these local boats, and of its members in crewing them, St Helier Yacht Club was granted the privilege of flying a ‘defaced’ Red Ensign and a copy of the official confirmation bestowing this battle honour is among the many fascinating photographs and illustrations we’ve used in our storyboard for this amazing little craft. And, if you do visit the exhibition, look above you and you’ll see the large wooden propeller that was salvaged from the wreckage of the Cloud of Iona.
Having first been briefed just before Christmas, we were delighted to have delivered such a successful project in such a short period of time and we hope it’s done justice to the great restoration work undertaken by the small team who’ve restored the Diana to her former glory.
November 8, 2016
Graphic Design, PR/Communications Consultancy, Signage & Exhibition Design, Strategy