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4 Jun 2018

Less is more: innovating with our collections

Transcript

My job is really about influencing the direction of how we use our collections and interiors, and how we manage them. So on a day-to-day basis that could mean going out to visit a lot of properties. Instead of just writing documents about directing practice it’s about dealing with individuals, listening to people and then trying to set direction in a way which will take the Trust into the future.

The Trust properties are amazing because they represent amazing periods of our history, amazing people, amazing stories. They are unique parts of Scotland’s overall story. We have 300,000 objects in over 50 locations across the Trust and I think the exciting thing over the next five years will be actually making them sing – telling the stories of the people who lived there, worked there, and using objects in really different, radical ways, which I hope our membership will love, and visitors will love, and want to come back and see again.

We have eight accredited museums within the Trust portfolio, I think that’s significant in that they represent a collection, and a collection which is of research use. So we have lots of scholars from right across the world who are interested in the connections between objects, within those properties in particular, but of course they’re also interested in some of our houses which are less museumlike.

Visitors should be expecting to see big changes in our properties over the next five years. We will be focusing more on people and stories rather than objects and facts. That might mean a narrative about a particular house’s history, which is broken up into pieces, so that if you come one year and hear a bit about the story of that house, you’ll want to come back next year. It’s almost like the commercial break, you’ll want to come back next year and find out more about that family, and what happens next.

The adage is ‘less is more’, so we will be displaying less in our properties but changing it more often. So instead of showing everything we have on one visit, encourage people to come back and see things in more depth. That also has benefits in terms of the conservation of the collection because it allows us to rest and to conserve items which are no longer on display.

People will see big changes within Trust properties over the next couple of years, in particular at Newhailes house, just outside Edinburgh, Georgian House, where we are today, Culzean Castle – and Brodick Castle will be the first. We really expect to surprise people when they visit Brodick, especially if they have been before.

Visitors are really curious about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in terms of looking after Scotland’s heritage, and we aim to get visitors more directly involved in conserving our collections and interiors in the future. We also want to change the message of conservation within the Trust, so get away from the ‘don’t touch’ to ‘If you’d like to touch, please ask’. I think sometimes we are in danger of forgetting that our properties were once homes, and homes, your home, my home, has a life of its own. Corbusier said that ‘homes are machines for living’ and some of our machines have seized up. We need to breathe a bit more life into them; that means using our collections and interiors in creative, changing ways.

At 3 in our 100 Ways list is a plan to innovate how we show off our amazing collections, telling fresh stories and encouraging visitors to return again and again.

The National Trust for Scotland is working every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 2018 – 2023, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.

To show the scale of the work we’re doing, we’ve identified 100 Ways we’re protecting Scotland’s heritage. One of these is shaking up how we show off our collections and their stories.   

The Trust is a treasure trove, filled with objects that have the potential to shed light on a story about Scotland and what makes it special. 

Over the next few years, we’ll be taking a new approach to how we showcase the collections at our places, aimed at letting the pieces shine and highlighting the stories they represent.

Quote
“The Trust properties are amazing because they represent amazing periods of our history, amazing people, amazing stories. They are unique parts of Scotland’s overall story. ”
David Hopes
Head of Collections and Interiors Policy

David goes on to explain the idea behind this:

‘We have 300,000 objects in over 50 locations across the Trust, and I think the exciting thing over the next five years will be making them sing – telling the stories of the people who lived there and worked there – and using objects in really different, radical ways, which I hope our members will love, and visitors will love, and want to come back and see again.’

One of the big changes on the cards is the idea of paring back what’s currently on show, switching up an approach that hasn’t altered a great deal since the conservation charity began in 1931. David says:   

‘The adage is “less is more”, so we’ll be displaying less in our properties but changing it more often. Instead of showing everything we have on one visit, we want to encourage people to come back and see things in more depth. This also has benefits in terms of the conservation of the collection because it allows us to rest and to conserve items which are no longer on display.’

Aerial view of Brodick Castle
Aerial view of Brodick Castle

We’ve selected a handful of Trust places to try out this brave new approach, including Newhailes House, the Georgian House and Culzean Castle. But the whole project kicks off at Brodick Castle. Currently closed for fire prevention works, the Arran castle is due to reopen for visitors in 2019. 

David has ambitious plans for the castle. 

‘We really expect to surprise people when they visit Brodick, especially if they have been before.’

100 ways

in which we’re loving and protecting Scotland, for you.

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