Sunday, 26 July 2015

Collecting Cultures update

Avid readers of the Seven Stories Collections Blog may have noticed that so far this year little mention has been made of any new acquisitions to our Collection. This is by no means a reflection of our collecting activity this year. On the contrary, we’re very happy to say that we’ve been making and planning some very exciting new acquisitions under the first part of our HLF Collecting Cultures project.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

Some of you may be aware that towards the end of last year we were delighted to announce that Seven Stories had been awarded a grant of £341,500 as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures programme – designed to enable a range of museums across the country to enhance their collections through the purchase of new material. This substantial grant will help us to build on our already internationally significant Collection of archives and books (you can read our original announcement here:

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

In the 1990s, when Seven Stories (then known as the Centre for the Children’s Book) began collecting the archives of children’s authors and illustrators, our mission was simple – to protect Britain’s heritage of children’s books for this and future generations. At this time, manuscripts and illustrations of some of Britain’s most influential authors and illustrators were being sold overseas – dispersed among various institutions and private collections. Nowhere was there a place where the rich history of British children’s books could be celebrated, shared and explored. To rectify this, Seven Stories co-founders Elizabeth Hammill and Mary Briggs, with the help of many authors, illustrators, publishers, teachers and librarians, set out to establish an archive of British children’s literature.

Since then the Collection at Seven Stories has grown immensely and now represents one of the richest resources for the study of children’s literature in the world. The archive represents the work of over 180 authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers. Our book collection includes over 35,000 volumes, including numerous rare and unique titles.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

As the Seven Stories Collection has grown we have found ourselves faced with questions of how to ensure our Collection tells fully the story of British children’s literature. How should we go about building a Collection that represents all of the different elements and facets of such a diverse topic as writing for children? How can we try to ensure that the work of the many writers, illustrators, publishers and editors who have shaped childhood reading habits can be celebrated and shared? How do we make sure that the experiences of child readers over almost a century can be explored and understood?

Our generous Collecting Cultures grant offers us the very unique opportunity to strategically address these questions, building and strengthening our already world-class Collection, enhancing its scope and breadth, and acquiring material by yet more world class illustrators and writers. Throughout the project we will develop three specific areas in our Collection: poetry, picture books and children’s fiction from 1930 – 2000. We will also collect work which reflects social and cultural diversity.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

So far the Collecting Cultures project has brought some fantastic new collections to the Seven Stories archive and we have many very exciting acquisitions on the horizon. We’ll be announcing these over the coming months so keep an eye on the Collections blog for the latest news.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Seven Stories Visitor Centre is now open! Part 2

 It has been such a long installation, and there were just too many pictures to fit in one post! This is the second installment, where I'll show you people getting in to the galleries for the first time, and what they look like finished and ready for the public.

Some of the very first visitors to see the galleries, before they were quite finished (and before we even had any artwork up!) were for the press photos to market the exhibitions. 
Cathy, our resident vintage expert and Visitor Services Co-ordinator, spent a lot of time in the Collections and Exhibitions team during the time the centre was closed. She researched and bought all the props you see in the galleries, including this beautiful WWII radio, actually built in Gateshead!
Gwen and Iwan enjoying some of the areas they have spent the last several months designing and building. They are just a few of the team from the wonderful 24 Design in Manchester, who worked tirelessly creating and installing the Rhyme Around the World exhibition with us.
The galleries were just about finished and ready to be explored by staff whilst we did some induction training on the Wednesday before opening. Sarah and I led this session on Rhyme Around the World, and Gill led another session later that day in Painting with Rainbows.
Obviously as part of a Seven Stories training session, there will also be lots of dressing up! 
Gill and I had the privilege of showing around Michael and Louise Foreman, for their first look at the Painting with Rainbows exhibition. We have been in close contact with Michael and Louise through the whole design of the exhibition, and it was lovely to see them both with big smiles looking around the display!
For Rhyme Around the World we hope all our youngest visitors are out and about with their parents and carers enjoying all the rhymes in the exhibition! 
Entrance to the gallery under this wonderful glowing archway!
Entering the gallery
'When the Boat Comes in'
'When the Boat Comes in' 
'Over the hills'
'Over the Hills'
'Whatever the Weather'

'Sing a Song of Sixpence'
'Polly put the kettle on'
'Rhyme Around the World'
Sharing Station, at the end of the gallery we would love for all our visitors to share their own favourite nursery rhyme, and tell us why they love it!

Entrance to Painting with Rainbows
'War Boy'
'The Amazing Tale of Ali Pasha'
'Dinosaurs and all That Rubbish'
'One World' and 'Mia's Story'
'One World'
'Say Hello', 'Cat and Dog' and 'The Littlest Dinosaur'
Our little cat and dog family!
The Friendship Zone, where you can watch 4 films made by students at our local Byker Primary school to help achieve their Arts Award.
'Friends' and 'The Seeds of Frienship'
'Wonder Goal' and a few of Foreman's illustrations for classic texts
Map of the world showing Foreman's many adventures all around the world, providing much of the inspiration for his stories.
'A Child's Garden'
Recreation of the vine from 'A Child's Garden', where visitors can tie a ribbon and wish on their hopes for the future.
If you can visit in person, we would love to see you! For more details about opening hours and a host of events, click here.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Seven Stories Visitor Centre is now open! Part 1

After lots of hard work behind the scenes, we are very glad to announce that the gleaming refurbished building is now open! 

Seven Stories opened almost ten years ago, and hasn't closed since (with the exception of Christmas, Easter and staff training days!), so this past thirteen weeks have felt quite unusual for the behind the scenes team. It has meant huge amounts of work from all staff to make sure the centre is ready on time, and the Exhibitions and Collections team have been on site installing the three new exhibitions since 22nd June.

We will have posts all about the new exhibitions in the upcoming weeks, but for now we will leave you with a few shots of the galleries as they went in.

Gallery on level 4 and 5. During the refurbishment, the galleries were undergoing a mini transformation. The floors were cleaned and resurfaced, the AC units were fitted with attenuation units to reduce the noise, and the walls were resurfaced, ready for many more years of exhibitions.
The gallery on level 6, previously the Storylab Gallery and now the Gillian Dickinson Gallery, has had an entirely new floor installed and new air conditioning installed.
After being allowed back in to the building, we set to work fitting the walls in to place, and painting up all the many different areas of the gallery.
Fitting curved walls. 
Moving cases to their new positions.

Many of the walls in Rhyme Around the World include back panels to access the AV equipment - this is Craig fitting the television in the map area. It will show a series of nursery rhymes from around the world.
Stef showing the unpainted Morrison shelter in the Painting with Rainbows exhibition.
Workstation for the graphic installation in Painting with Rainbows.
Some of the build for Painting with Rainbows arriving. This is the skyline from Say Hello by Michael and Jack Foreman.
Chris putting together Henry Friston's arbour, from the book Ali Pasha by Michael Foreman. 
Dom and Doug putting down vinyl flowers in the War and Peas area of Painting with Rainbows.
Naomi installing some of her beautifully crafted textile works in the galleries. She also made most of the costumes in both galleries! 
Gill exploring the gorgeous new boat, based on Jane Ray's illustration for the cover of Over the Hills and Far Away.
Ben working on AV in Rhyme Around the World.
Gwen painting some final touches to the regal area of Rhyme Around the World. 
Amanda cutting grass to fit on the Dinosaurs and all That Rubbish activity table.
Kris fitting the grass to the Dinosaurs and all That Rubbish activity table.
Gill and Colin installing the beautiful vine in Painting with Rainbows. It is there at the end of the exhibition for visitors to leave with a thought of hope for the future.
Jen setting up artwork in the Paddington exhibition.
Gill and Kris putting up artwork in Painting with Rainbows.  
Artwork laid out ready to be hung in Painting with Rainbows. 
Artwork waiting to be hung in Rhyme Around the World.
See installment TWO of this blog post for the finished gallery images!

If you can visit in person, we would love to see you! For more details about opening hours and a host of events, click here.