Once There Was Magic, Newcastle

We were the interpretive planners for an exhibition about magic in children’s books for Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle.

We were contracted by Bright White Ltd to work with their design team to plan two exciting new exhibitions for Seven Stories. These were their reopening exhibitions following Covid closures. Once There Was Magic and Shifter of Shapes responded in different ways to the challenges experienced by many during lockdown.


Interpretive Planning

Our role for Once There Was Magic was to lead on interpretive planning and draft the interpretation plans for both exhibitions. This was very much a creative, collaborative process with Bright White and client teams. The client had an exhibition outline, which included topics and a long list of display items from their collections, authors and illustrators and other libraries.

We began with this outline and read lots of magical children’s fiction alongside popular and academic works about the authors and books. We developed the interpretive theme, aims and objectives and overarching topics, and helped to create a gaming concept, for the whole exhibition. We then planned the messaging hierarchy and interpretive objectives for each seven spaces in the exhibition.

Once There was Magic is an immersive exhibition with a gaming challenge. It focuses on the representation of magic in children’s books, taking its lead from Children’s Laureate and award winning author Cressida Cowell. The Wizards of Once series is a main focal point. The exhibition includes the works of other well-known children’s authors, including C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Celia Rees and Terry Pratchett. Each author has a dedicated space within the exhibition that is linked to an interpretive sub-theme based on their work. For example J.K. Rowling features magical creatures and Roal Dahl the idea of evil.

The exhibition was designed and installed by Bright White Ltd and opened in September 2021.

Client: Seven Stories
Subcontracted to: Bright White Ltd
Duration: April – July 2021

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