Behind the Scenes: Curiouser and Curiouser

30/03/202011:1202/04/2020 09:10Leave a Comment


My name is Helen and I’m the Design Services Officer here at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. I’ve worked here for 23 years and my role is to design the look, colour scheme and graphics of the exhibitions and displays we put on at the museum.

The Museum may be closed at the moment but that doesn’t stop us from working from home to bring you new exhibitions once we’re open again.

I’m writing this to tell you about our next exciting summer family exhibition myself and colleagues are currently putting together for you.

The exhibition is called Curiouser and Curiouser, Alice’s Adventures in a Museum Wonderland. This exhibition coincides with the 200th Anniversary of the birth of the Illustrator Sir John Tenniel, who is especially known for his illustrations to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the children’s book by Lewis Carroll.

In this exhibition, we are using a combination of museum objects combined with John Tenniel’s black and white illustrations to tell the story of Alice.

We start with selecting objects from across all of the collections that will help tell the story. It is then my job to bring the objects together with extra props, sounds and activities for you to do in a layout which brings the story to life, and makes the exhibition engaging and learning about the objects fun. In the promotional graphic I’ve designed below, to name a few, you can see John Tenniel’s illustration of the Mad Hatter wearing one of the hats from our decorative Arts collection, Alice peering behind a curtain to see one of our CW Brown prints from the Art collection, plus the herald and mouse in a teapot from our Ceramics collection.

If you haven’t read the story of Alice in Wonderland – it tells of a young girl named Alice who falls asleep sitting on a river bank and has the most curious dream, which starts by her following a white rabbit. Following the rabbit she manages to fall down a rabbit hole and has some amazing adventures there meeting many strange characters like a caterpillar smoking a pipe, and a vanishing Cheshire cat. She drinks and eats several things which make her change size unexpectedly going from very small to very large. She takes part in a caucus race judged by a dodo, meets a Duchess, with a baby that becomes a pig, then she attends a tea party with the Mad Hatter. She opens a little door with a gold key and goes through it to find herself in a beautiful garden where gardeners are painting the roses red and the queen of hearts is playing croquet with flamingos for mallets and hedgehogs for croquet balls. Alice is then called as a witness in the trial of the Knave of Hearts, who is accused of having stolen the Queen’s tarts. Finally she awakens from her dream and is once again on the river bank with her sister.

Here’s a sneak preview of the plan and some of the layouts I’m working on….

We have lots of things in store for you with this exhibition. As well as items from the collections we have a large white rabbit, mushroom and caterpillar, and a tiny door to open, all made by another member of the exhibitions team. You’ll be able to see the animals in our collections taking part in a caucus race and the trial of the Knave of Hearts and sit round the mad hatters table. Plus, there’ll be a croquet lawn for you to play croquet on, just like the queen of Hearts did in the story, and lots of dressing up and some colouring in.

In the exhibition we’ll be asking you to colour in some white roses to help the gardeners change the colour of them to red, so they don’t get in trouble with the Queen. If you would like to colour in one of the roses now and bring it in to add to our rose wall when the exhibition is open please print out a template, colour it in and with the help of an adult, cut it out ready to stick on our wall.

The exhibition was planned to be opening on 16 May but due to the current situation the start date is likely to change so we’ll keep you posted. While you’re waiting for the exhibition to open, why don’t you read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Helen Cann, Design Services Officer, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Written by Helen Cann (Design Services Officer) - Modified by Glenn Roadley (Curator, Natural Sciences)

2 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: Curiouser and Curiouser”

  1. Melanie platt says:

    My dad owned The old sheep shop which became Alice’s sweet shop when he had it . Lewis Carol used to go buy sweets for Alice at this shop and it is still a f shop in Oxford that sells sweets and Alice stuff. I was bought up on the story and live in Oxford.

  2. Rosie says:

    Your illustrations are exciting! Alice remains my favorite fairy tale even years later, and looking at your illustrations, I understand how closely it looks like pictures in my head. Unfortunately, the quarantine makes it impossible to see it firsthand, but I would gladly be inspired by illustrations online. Have you ever thought about an online exhibition?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *