Matters physical, thoughtful and sensory: part 1
In the Big TreeTop is our summer exhibition for younger children and their families. We’ve been running exhibitions like this for seven years, and it is something of a speciality, with great experience amongst staff, great expectations from our visitors and the reputation to live up to of “Family Friendly Museum of the Year“.
Today our designers Janet Vaughan and Nicola Richardson delivered a model of the installation, which looks really special.
The project is a strange combination of playfulness and utter seriousness – analysing last year’s installation in detail and trying to make every aspect a little better. We’ve kept the scale of last year’s “Under the Big Tree” but spread the structures throughout the space. We are putting lots more into the safe area for babies and the central structure has far more playful flexibility.
The design has a clever combination of enclosed and open areas. Some of the open spaces can become focal points for static play as well as routes for hurtling games, and there are plenty of options so if one place becomes a beautifully decorated den, it won’t interfere with other games.
Our big influence is the “Reggio Emilia” approach to creative play which is pioneered in Italian pre-schools. Of course we need to take account of the many differences between a gallery and a nursery, for instance we don’t have a small number of familiar children. Instead we welcome hundreds, some coming day after day, others perhaps visiting the Herbert for the first time. Although this must have all the safety considerations of a children’s centre, we also need to meet the expectations of visitors to an award-winning art gallery of an elegant and designed space.