SANCTUARY FROM THE TRENCHES - DUNHAM MASSEY
CLIENT: THE NATIONAL TRUST
The National Trust asked us to deliver their flagship First World War centenary project at Dunham Massey Hall in Cheshire. The brief was for it to be ‘non-museum-y’ so we developed an innovative ‘still-life drama’ presentation of facts, events and objects across seven rooms, transforming them from their traditional presentation to recreate their appearance in 1917-1918 when the Hall was used as an Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital for wounded Tommies. Sets include a busy ward, an operating theatre (incongruously located at the foot of the Grand Staircase) and the nurses’ ‘station’, in the Billiard Room. All were based on solid archival evidence from Dunham’s own records.
We used hundreds of sourced and replicated objects, all researched to link back to a known story in the archive. First person quotes are printed on pillows and medical equipment to lead the visitor to a greater understanding of the soldiers’ suffering and the nurses’ hard work. Audio, props and aroma are used to create atmosphere and underline key stories, and we worked with the client to plan an approach to introducing drama which was then developed and delivered to great effect through Dunham’s partnership with Manchester's Royal Exchange.
Sanctuary from the Trenches opened in March 2014. Visitor numbers to the house doubled that year; with extremely positive reviews from the press to TripAdvisor, Sanctuary won the Trust’s ‘Outstanding Achievement’ Award at the annual Trust awards, and the project has contributed to Dunham Massey’s shortlisting as a finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015.