A £1m permanent exhibition, created for English Heritage by Designmap to mark Charles Darwin’s birth 200 years ago, opens tomorrow at Down House, Downe, Kent.
The exhibition, in the house where Darwin spent most of his life after his voyages, is the fruit of a year-long project that Designmap undertook alongside MDM Props following a four-way unpaid creative pitch (DW 10 April 2008).
Opening on schedule, the exhibition is located on the second floor of the Victorian house, occupying seven rooms, and is the response to a complex brief, says Designmap director Daniel Sutton.
The task has been to tell Darwin’s story in a historical context, according to Sutton, while explaining and simplifying the multiple elements that constitute his theory of evolution by natural selection. One of the design highlights, Sutton says, is the room that aims to describe Darwin the man, by using a ‘pigeon-hole’ gridding system. ‘[The pigeon holes] are used in a metaphorical way. The matrix of objects and graphics relate to the figures that influenced Darwin and the religious figures that were central to the debate about evolution,’ says Sutton.
Designmap’s creation stands out from other Darwin exhibitions, such as the one at London’s Natural History Museum, because of its ‘low-tech interactivity’, says Sutton.
‘We’re telling the story of where the theories were formed and where the experiments took place. Darwin was this friendly Victorian figure, and this great earth-shattering theory was formed in humble domestic circumstances. We’ve tried to stay true to that with a lot of low-tech interactive devices,’ he explains.