On 30th March 2012, the first permanent gallery dedicated to exploring the social, technological and cultural impact of the internet and web opened at the National Media Museum- COPYRIGHT-NATIONAL-MEDIA-MUSEUM.
Life Online will trace the history of the internet and explore an invaluable public archive of society’s relationship with the internet and the web in the 21st century. The gallery covers two spaces within the museum: a permanent exhibition space in the foyer and a changing temporary exhibition space.
Sarah Crowther, Life Online Content Curator, said:
“The Life Online temporary exhibition gallery has been created to enable the museum to explore the key issues around the internet and its impact on our lives.
“The first exhibition celebrates the open source culture of sharing and collaborating online and examines the threats to net neutrality that could change the climate of the open internet as we know it. We hope that the exhibition will enable visitors to enjoy the artworks whilst engaging with the key concepts around our life online.”
The project has included the introduction of a gallery space within the glazed entrance foyer of the museum. In order to provide a calm and neutral environment in which visitors can self-navigate, the alignment and positioning of walls, interactive and object displays has been carefully designed to maximise the available space.
Freestanding displays were designed to fit between the planar glazing structures of the glass cladding to the front of the museum, and the use of materials throughout the space is clean, simple and timeless. The space features a white backdrop with black and white glass surface, stainless steel trims and large format 600×600 charcoal tiles. RGBA LEDs have been used within sections of the gallery and are linked by colour code to the mood of Twitter.
As the use of high quality materials was specified, the attention to detail was critical. Specialist materials on this project included everything from structural glazed flooring, specialist lighting, edge lit acrylics, GRP and stretch ceilings to glass and metalwork on top of the bespoke cabinets, furniture and fittings.
In addition, the floor was levelled through in order to form an object display trench that depicts a timeline of personal computers from the 1970s to the present day. In addition, interactive terminals that allow access to the internet are positioned below large-scale overhead projection units, allowing visitors to browse the web and immerse themselves in a rich multi-media content archive.
Challenges included erecting a leaning 11-metre high wall and suspending the projection units from the structure.
Main contractor for the project is TTS Interiors and the architect is NRN Design.
Steve Greaves, TTS Interiors, said:
“We knew from the outset that this was a unique project with both construction challenges as well as environmental, as we would be constructing an exhibition in the entrance atrium of a museum whilst the museum remained open for business.
“It was an extremely interesting and bespoke design that included everything from object displays to large amounts of technology, and from the outset we worked in close partnership with both the designers at NRN Design and the client to ensure we achieved both the effect and the quality they were after, whilst maintaining programme. Within a space initially without walls and with no two surfaces at 90 degrees to each other, the design managed to work around this to still provide the practical approach we offer in building and installing the exhibition.
“We are extremely proud of the end result and the team we have worked with on it.
Tom Woolley, Curator of New Media at the National Media Museum, added:
“Although other galleries tell the story of the internet, no other gallery in the world links that ever-evolving history with the impact the internet has on our lives and we are very excited to house the world’s first gallery of its kind in the world here in Bradford.”
Life Online is funded by the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries and Improvement Fund. The project also has a number of corporate supporters, including: Virgin Media, Brass and Start JudgeGill.