No. 1 Royal Crescent

July 31, 2019

A Georgian stage for modern exhibition design

No. 1 Royal Crescent is the headquarters of Bath Preservation Trust and a museum that interprets family spaces and domestic staff spaces. The building itself was built between 1767 and 1774. The time period they interpret is 1776 to 1796. Its the first townhouse of 30 (right-most in the picture) that make up a curved building and was designed in Palladian architecture.

Early in the morning our group gathered in the basement of No. 1 to talk about exhibition design and interpretation.

Currently No. 1 is showing an exhibition about 1800s portraits acting as selfies of the time. I think its a genius exhibit theme because so many parallels can be drawn between the two. Both painted portraits and selfies or Instagram posts can be used to show the world your status, experience, and personality. Both can be tweaked from the truth. Both can be perfectly curated to show the world exactly what you want to share, instead of exactly what's true.

The staff there have said they've gotten some complaints that the exhibition is "desecrating the sanctity of portraits" but many more visitors love it and think its a great analogy.

Program Session

Our task for the session was to split into groups to create an exhibition proposal about *drum roll* ... Historic Christmas!

We made a proposal about comparing Christmas traditions of the 1800s to traditions of today. We proposed the temporary exhibit space to be an interactive space split into 2, one side showing a Victorian living room decorated for the holiday (a small tree, a few presents, and traditional formal winter dress) to a 2019 living room with commercialized decor, presents, a TV with Christmas movies, and a rack of cheesy holiday pajamas for people to dress up in (adult dress-up clothes are ridiculously popular in Bath). We proposed the historic house itself to show the way its prepared the hours before a holiday party: how the staff prepare the meal, the lady of the house gets her make-up done, the gentleman gets dressed, the dining room gets set, and the foyer is decorated.

Renovations & Interpretation

Between 2012 and 2013 the house went through some major renovations to join spaces together again. The house did a wonderful job with the work. When the museum reopened to the public, Mary Berry (from the Great British Baking Show) was there to cut the ribbon!

The servant's kitchen in the basement has a modern oven installed but with a traditional oven door over top. Many of the historic rug patterns were reproduced onto EyeMats so visitors can walk farther into a room without damaging carpets or taking away an aesthetic. The museum incorporates other senses into their interpretation including smell and sound.

Their temporary exhibition was incredibly interactive. They really integrated interpretation and interactives. The photo props were fun to mess around with. The staff said that the lamb was a crowd favorite, and honestly it was the first thing I picked up when I got to the room.

I also LOVED how they used a dried pointy flower to signify not to sit on a chair. Its not bulky or out of place like a sign or red rope.


Museum Professional. Traveler. Cat lover.

Chloe Wingard