Over the past month at the Library I, Dee, have been putting together a small display on Worcester Cathedral Organists through the ages. With the help of the library volunteers, I am happy to say my mini exhibition is now complete, and can be found in the south nave aisle of Worcester Cathedral.
My display aims to uncover the lives and work of six Cathedral organists, who lived through some of the most tumultuous periods in English history. The display is made up of three glass cases. The first case focuses on organists of the monastic foundation, the second contains a Civil War organist and an organist of the Hanoverian era, and the final case includes a Victorian and an Edwardian organist. The display covers from 1468-1945 and, as you might expect when working with such a large time span, this posed a few challenges!
The size of the display cases placed restrictions on the amount of material I could use in the display. As time went on, I found it more feasible to concentrate on six rather than eight Cathedral organists. Daniel Boys (organist until the dissolution of Worcester’s Benedictine monastery in 1540) and Nathaniel Giles (1558-c.163) both sadly got the chop from the main body of the display. The extra space, however, allowed me to provide a fuller biography of the six organists who remained: Richard Green, John Hampton, Thomas Tomkins, Thomas Pitt, William Done and Sir Ivor Atkins.
A second challenge was balancing the amount of documentary sources with photographic / visual material and artefacts. For the organists of the monastic foundation, Richard Green and John Hampton, account rolls / books and deeds of appointment from the monastic registers made up the body of source material. To place a pile of pictures of account rolls and monastic registers in a case would have made for a rather colourless display with a lot of LONGGGG Latin-English transcriptions (bleurgh!!).
I think that I managed to make the case containing organists of the monastic foundation as visually enticing as the other two cases (in which there were portraits and artefacts . The documents used are often superimposed with text and they also include arrows which draw the reader’s eye to a particular section. With documents in Latin, its important (in the absence of a full transcription) to provide a lengthy enough caption so that readers not proficient in the language can ascertain the essence of the document.
Whilst this display had its challenges and limitations, it also provided a good basis for me to acquire some new skills. Photography was never my forte but now I feel substantially more confident in photographing a range of material. I photographed documents and books, portraits, organ pipes, conductor’s batons and I even photographed photographs (if that makes any sense).
Now that I am happy with everything in the cases, I’m hoping to make a little comment card over the next day or two so that I can get some feedback on the display from members of the public. I have to start thinking about my larger summer exhibition (yikes), and to have a rough idea of what worked and what needs improvement from my current display will be a great starting point when I start to conceptualize the presentation of my larger exhibiton, which will use a much larger amount of source material.