Science and Industry Museum (SIM) in Manchester has released a tender valued at £50,000 for the interpretive design of its permanent gallery, Power Hall.
The industrial heritage gallery is a Grade II listed building and houses one of the UK’s largest collections of working 19th and early 20th century steam engines, most of which were built in Manchester. The history behind them contributed to the city becoming known as the “Northern Powerhouse” over a century ago.
SIM is looking for a multi-disciplinary design consultancy with a proven track record of creating exhibitions, permanent galleries, or visitor attractions. Everything from digital exhibits, diagrams and commissioned artworks, wayfinding and signage, exhibit lighting and film and audio will fall under the design brief.
An overarching message of the “dynamic and enduring nature of the human engine relationship” should be visible throughout the exhibition, as well as some smaller thematic messages. The new exhibition should cater to both the wider community and education groups that might visit the gallery.
Since there is no linear route to the gallery, each section must work on its own and visitors should be able to experience them in any order.
SIM requests that four key areas are considered by the chosen design team: inclusivity, relevance to audience, animation, and ease of navigation and use. It also expects the experience to be “high impact” with sounds and smells of working engines, well-designed graphics and interactives, and plenty of opportunity for conversation.
The museum team’s hope is that the new interpretation of the gallery will inspire future engineers and innovators. It will demonstrate the skill and ingenuity of the industrial workers of the time and explore the narrative of how they influenced the way we work and the consumer society we live in today.
The interpretation design is part of a larger £17m project to restore and repair the building and begin the decarbonisation of the museum site. Power Hall will be the most visible and publicised part of the government-funded decarbonisation project, and so, its sustainable approach must also be reflected across the exhibition design.
The chosen studio will be working alongside an experience design team responsible for the base build, as well as the museum team and a range of community partners. The budget for this project will be fixed and must be adhered to, according to SIM.
In summer 2024, after being closed for over five years, the gallery is due to reopen, so the chosen consultancy must work to this hard deadline. Applications will close at 1pm on 28 October 2022 and a design team will be appointed on 28 November. The contract will run until 31 July 2024.
More information can be found on the Science Museum Group tender website.
Banner image credit: Nina Alizada on Shutterstock.