Celebrating RAMM's 10th Anniversary of Reopening
Published: 15 December 2021
It’s ten years since the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) reopened its doors to the public after a major redevelopment project.
On 15 December 2011 after a long period of closure, RAMM reopened its doors to reveal a major new refurbishment.
RAMM’s been celebrating that milestone by picking its top ten memorable moments over the past decade:
Winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year
In 2012 RAMM was crowned ‘Museum of the Year’ and awarded the £100,000 Art Fund Prize for its redevelopment project. It was a surprise and honour to be shortlisted, so when the announcement was made that RAMM had won we were shocked and stunned.
Chair of Judges, Lord Smith of Finsbury, said “The new Royal Albert Memorial Museum is quite simply a magical place” and was praised for its ‘ambition and imagination’.
The prize fund has contributed towards many important commissions, acquisitions and projects so far, including the Carnival of the Animals in 2018, the acquisition and display of Wing by Peter Randall Page, and Eden 6 by Susan Derges.
River Scene with Heron, Geoffrey Preston
Geoffrey Preston’s unique stucco piece went on display in 2014 after being specially commissioned by the Friends of RAMM. This plasterwork sculpture of a heron catching an eel in the River Exe still adorns the Making History gallery. The heron was inspired by a mezzotint by Samuel William Reynolds and the herons on the Saloon ceiling at Poltimore House.
Staying true to local methods and historic techniques, Preston made the panel on a timber frame with traditional three-coat lime plaster on riven hardwood laths. The evocative landscape scene was modelled directly onto the lime plaster base using hand-modelled stucco. It is a modern testament to the beauty of Stucco, which had its heyday in the eighteenth century but is now rarely used.
Seaton Down Hoard
The Seaton Down Hoard arrived at RAMM on 20 July 2016. With 22,888 Roman coins, it is by far the largest coin hoard found in Devon and the third largest ever found in Britain.
The hoard was discovered by metal-detectorist Laurence Egerton in a field near Seaton. It was buried in around AD 350, but by whom and why remains a mystery.
RAMM saved the Seaton Down Hoard with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Clinton Devon Estates, Thomson Reuters, Devon County Council and many members of the public. It has inspired countless activities and events for everyone to enjoy, from a travelling school roadshow to conservation workshops.
RAMM celebrated its 150th anniversary
In 2018 RAMM presented a spectacular celebration to mark 150 years of the museum being open. Some of the events that took place in 1868 were recreated, and some new ones were added.
In 1868 the opening of the museum was celebrated with a concert; so as part of the celebrations in Exeter’s EMG Symphony Orchestra performed a museum-inspired programme at Exeter Cathedral. Our Carnival of the Animals was a new interpretation of the parade that took place on the day of the opening. Celebrations also included exhibitions, ‘Alfie’s Night Out’ a new children’s book about RAMM, high profile speakers, and a Royal visit. RAMM’s newly refurbished World Cultures galleries also reopened in May.
Criminal Ornamentation, Yinka Shonibare MBE
RAMM was thrilled when celebrated British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE curated Criminal Ornamentation. This vibrant exhibition featured work from the Arts Council Collection that embraces colour, ornament and pattern as a means of social and political expression.
Shonibare’s exhibition responded to early twentieth-century architect Adolf Loos’ influential and anti-decoration essay ‘Ornament and Crime’. From a sequined dress by Alexander McQueen to nineteenth-century wallpaper by William Morris, Shonibare’s dazzling selection told a story of objects that refuse to be confined.
In February 2019 RAMM Lates was born! These after-hours, adults-only nights of entertainment have become extremely popular, allowing visitors to experience the museum in an entirely new and unique way.
We continued to delight audiences with our RAMM Lates programmes even through lockdown, where two events were held online over Zoom and social media. Then last month, in-person Lates returned and it was so wonderful to see people back enjoying the museum once again. Visitors enjoyed meeting live reptiles and insects and were enthralled by flamenco dancer Karina Gracia, with some joining in at the end of the night!
Out and About: Queering the Museum
In 2020, RAMM launched the ambitious project Out and About: Queering the Museum thanks to invaluable support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Inspired by the success of the Rainbow Trail, the 18-month project invites lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people to reveal, create and celebrate LGBTQ+ heritage in RAMM’s collections.
The project includes an exciting series of events, an online trail and website, six new artist commissions, blog pieces from the project’s research volunteers, a digital Queer Collectors’ Case and a new interactive by Stand + Stare.
Challenges of Covid-19
RAMM was significantly impacted by the pandemic last year. We were open for just 32 days between April 2020 and March 2021. Yet RAMM continued to inform, inspire and connect to our local and wider communities over a challenging year, thanks to our loyal supporters and resilient staff.
We created new opportunities for local artists to capture the present moment, including Amy Shelton who created Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium from plants and wildflowers collected over lockdown. The museum also acquired Breathe by social documentary photographer Michelle Sank thanks to the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund.
We helped people to get creative from their own homes during lockdown with RAMM at Home. Our digital resources meant that we could share RAMM’s work with more people than ever before, from delivering home learning resources to honouring local heroes. We also unveiled a new online museum shop, offering a wide range of unique and locally-sourced gifts.
In 2021 RAMM launched a series of community wellbeing projects to support people who have been affected by the impact of the Covid pandemic over the last 21 months.
This began with Growing Together, an initiative which inspired local communities to come together and re-ignite their love of nature. Currently in progress is a youth photography project, Frame of Mind, in partnership with Youth Arts and Health Trust. We also worked with mindfulness practitioner Jo Gosling to deliver a series of guided mindfulness sessions in October and November.
These projects have helped to empower people to feel less isolated, bring happiness and relief into their lives and learn a few skills and methods of relaxation after a difficult period of lockdown.
Museum at Large
Museum at Large, the first contemporary art event of its kind in the city saw four unique temporary art installations transported onto the streets of Exeter over the Halloween weekend in 2021.
We commissioned four brilliant artists, Gayle Chong Kwan, Walid Siti, Caro Williams and Jon Street who created four very different artworks, all inspired by objects in RAMM’s collections. We also partnered with a number of community groups and schools who created Museum at Large inspired artwork which was also on display.
Museum at Large was made possible thanks to an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.