Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anatomy of a display - the Anglo Saxon Cross Shaft

Object: stone cross

History: It stood in Wakefield’s market place (where the Bull Ring is today) from the 800s until the late 1500s when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in the 1860s being used as a step outside a butchers shop on Westgate. The shop was to be demolished to make way for Unity Hall when Charles Waterton’s son Edmund found it and moved it to the grounds of Walton Hall.

Display style: The cross was a landmark in the centre of Wakefield and probably used for preaching and a place to meet.
We wanted it to act as a landmark in the displays marking the beginning of the Wakefield Stories gallery and acting as a signpost between the Local Studies Library and the museum. It also signposts part of our approach to the new museum. Visitors are encouraged to ‘meet the people’ of Wakefield by exploring the stories of some residents, or start their own stories and learn about new characters in the Local Studies Library.

The big challenge was to show it as it looked when it was first made - a towering, colourful landmark.  This is what we came up with...

The cross was displayed at Wakefield Museum on Wood Street from 1979.
For the new display we wanted to show how large and impressive the cross was before it was broken. Wakefield Its History and People by JW Walker had a very useful illustration which inspired our display.

Walker's illustrations were used to computer-generate images of how the cross might look on display.

The surviving piece of stone is very heavy, and displaying it above floor level was quite a challenge. Our fit out team built a large platform to support both the stone and the people lifting it into position.
Hidden supports built into the ‘new’ parts of the cross hold the stone in place.
The cross was originally painted. Our scenic artist Rick decorated and then painted the ‘new’ sections of our cross in colours which were used and available to the Anglo Saxon people of Wachenfeld. Mainly red and yellow ochres (earth colours) with a dash of more expensive pigments.

Local illustrator Richard Bell popped in and sketched Rick painting the cross.  See Richard's own blog to see what he made of it!
Computer generated illustration of how the cross might look as a landmark behind our entrance board.

The cross proudly stands in Wakefield Museum and signposts the entrance to the Wakefield Stories gallery and Local Studies Library.

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