Metaphor is a London-based, global design firm that was founded in 2000 by Stephen Greenberg and Rachel Morris. Metaphor specialises in the re-presentation of museums, palaces, forts, landscapes and country houses through masterplanning and design. They work all over the world.
Over the last 50 years as museology has developed, so museum professionals have become more aware of the uses of design in making museum exhibits. Metaphor’s directors, who come out of architecture and novel writing, have developed new ways of seeing museums, breaking down the differences between exhibit and non-exhibit spaces and emphasising atmosphere, storylines and theatre. Also part of these new movements in museology is the way that Metaphor take a holistic view of museums, looking at everything from the big vision to the map in the visitors’ hands.
Metaphor’s projects illustrate these new movements. The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum in London, used the curved walls of the Round Reading Room to hold projections, acting as a theatrical backdrop.[note 1][note 2] The Holburne Museum in Bath, currently under re-construction, displays the central collection as if reflecting the mind of its eccentric 18th century collector. In Metaphor’s new galleries at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the experience is enhanced by the creation of associative links and sight lines, by the way that objects are placed and windows created between galleries, so that the entire world feels wrapped into the experience.[note 3][note 4]
- MacLeod, Suzanne (2005). "Introduction". In Suzanne MacLeod. Reshaping Museum Space: architecture, design, exhibitions. Routledge. pp. 9–25. ISBN 0-415-34345-3.
- Galangau-Quérat, Fabienne (2005). "The Grande Galerie de l’Evolution: an alternative cognitive experience". In Suzanne MacLeod. Reshaping Museum Space: architecture, design, exhibitions. Routledge. pp. 95–107 . ISBN 0-415-34345-3.
- "Transforming Bath's Art Museum: Progress". Holburne Museum.
- Campbell-Johnston, Rachel (11 September 2007). "The First Emperor at the British Museum: A platoon of China’s terracotta warriors has landed in the British Museum". The Times.
Exhibition designers and curators have to work hard to create a sense of spectacle. But they succeed brilliantly. The museum’s great Round Reading Room has been temporarily adapted into an atmospheric show space…Massive photographs, cinematic re-enactments, computerised replicas and stone rubbings come together with archaeological objects and a few reconstructions to dramatise a story with impressive concision and clarity.
- Dorment, Richard (13 September 2007). "Terracotta Army: Warriors march into British Museum". The Telegraph.
The show is beautifully shown in the round Reading Room, which has been temporarily converted into an exhibition gallery. For once, I welcomed the use of film and computer animation in the exhibition. The story the exhibition curator Jane Portal has to tell is epic in scale and unusually complex, so the computer reconstruction of what lies in the burial pits and tomb chamber, for example, helps us to understand the three-dimensional objects on display.
- Dorment, Richard (2 November 2009). "The reopening of The Ashmolean, review". The Telegraph.
The galleries are quirky and unpredictable, full of nooks and crannies and yet completely navigable even to the dyspraxically challenged, like me. That’s as much to do with the layout by the exhibition designers Metaphor as with the architecture.
- Glancey, Jonathon (26 October 2009). "On the up: the Ashmolean museum strides into the 21st century". The Guardian.
In this enchanting museum . . . the contents of each gallery can be glimpsed from the one before, through openings and windows. So you get pulled along. And, wherever you walk, on whatever crisscrossing floor or bridge, you will be lured into ever more galleries, each presenting more of the Ashmolean’s rich collection…