It’s no secret that I love visiting National Trust properties. The combination of beautiful locations, gorgeous gardens and houses with their paintings and textiles always makes a for lovely day out, throw in an excellent tea room and I’m totally sold. But they are also a great example of how museums and historical sites are presenting information through creative displays that really bring the past to life. Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, is often overlooked by neighbouring Chatsworth, but is really worth a visit.
You first enter into a large open courtyard area where you find gift shops, garden centres and yes, the tearoom and restaurant. There was also plenty of space for kids to run around and even some games equipment provided. After sampling the restaurant, we headed into the gardens whilst it wasn’t raining. I never trust British bank holiday weather!
Plenty of flowers were in bloom, and there was a particularly wonderful array of tulips. The formal Gardens were set in four distinct areas, separated by tall hedges that gave an almost Alice in Wonderland feel to the garden.
As we headed into the house and I was reminded of how the National Trust how employ some incredibly creative ways of displaying information. Gone are faded little cards, yellowed by age. Instead, information about the hall and it’s previous occupants are displayed on all manner of surfaces from carpets and cushions to plates and vases.
They also take records such as letters and present them in unusual ways. At Hardwick, there is a fabulous piece of textile art by artist Christine Anderson than uses letters from Evelyn, the last lady of Hardwick. Her handwritten letters have been printed onto the fabric of dress and robe, and describe her role as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary.
I have only ever seen this style of displaying information at National Trust properties; there maybe other museums and sites of historical interest that do, but I have never come across them. It was a couple of years ago at Lanhydrock that I first noticed how creatively the Trust had started to get information across to it visitors, using embroidery on tea towels and even artificial smells in the kitchen. It really brings everything to life; like the people have just stepped out of the room and could come back any moment. I find the little details fascinating.
Grand halls and the magnificent state bedrooms are wonderful and everything, but what intrigues me are the handwritten notes, well read books and half finished needlework. These things say so much more about a place and its former residents than any oil portrait ever could.
Have you seen any really creative displays at museums or historical houses? Let me know in the comments below or message me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook! And if you don’t want to miss out on any future blog posts , I’d love for you to sign up to my monthly email!