Designing digital experiences at the National Gallery
From March 2020 to March 2021, I documented the mammoth design process behind The National Gallery’s Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’ exhibition, exploring Jan Gossaert’s painting The Adoration of the Kings. The first exhibition at the Gallery to be created as part of the new innovation programme, I was commissioned to capture how this exhibition design explored new kinds of Gallery experiences using digital technologies, and importantly, places visitors at the heart of the design process.
This project started filming pre-pandemic, and then accompanied me through all three lockdowns, ending up with an internal film, a final 10 minute documentary available online, and also a film for Instagram to market the exhibition. Originally designed as a winter exhibition, the exhibition was able to open for only a week before the third lockdown in December 2020, before thankfully being extended to June 2021 after museums were allowed to reopen.
Led by Emma McFarland from the Innovation and Project Design team, an incredible team of Gallery staff and freelance creatives worked on several design sprints prototyping exhibition ideas and testing with visitor audiences at all stages.
The result is a stunning sensory experience, that allows audience members to explore Gossaert’s incredibly detailed painting both with the original painting in the room, as well as through soundscapes, spoken word, hi-resolution digital imagery and gesture-based interaction allowing a personal journey with the painting.
Team and acknowledgements
The Gallery professionals and independent creatives who made this exhibition possible.
Susan Foister, Curator
Emma McFarland, Project Lead and Innovation and Project Design
Nick Ryan, Sound Design and Composition
Theresa Lola, Poetry
Vasilija Abramovic, 3D Installation Design
Christopher Hunt, Lead Creative Technologist
Will Hurt, Creative Technologist
Wilkie Branson, Animation
Studio ZNA, Lighting Design
Polly Richards, Interpretation Editor
Anne Fay, Inclusion and Access
Clementine Vaughan, Digital Project Management
Valeria Fioretti and Sue Thompson, Exhibitions Management
Nicola Smith, Build Management
Belén Cao Ruiz, Exhibition Identity
Jon Sheldon and Alessandro Sorenti, Audio Visual Installation
Additional studio time provided by Somerset House Studios
The surround sound speaker system incorporates spatialised audio software provided by Professor Zoran Cvetkovic, King’s College London and Dr Enzo De Sena, University of Surrey.
This exhibition was designed by a team of artists, designers, creative technologists and Gallery professionals working together in an interdisciplinary team to design the concept and develop the experience with our visitors.
Thank you to all the members of the public who contributed to the design of the exhibition concept, working with the following National Gallery staff and independent creatives: Elly Bowness, Wilke Branson, Lawrence Chiles, Anne Fay, Susan Foister, Panja Göbel, Christopher Hunt, Will Hurt, Emma McFarland, Nick Ryan and Clementine Vaughan.