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Dazu: Designing the exhibition

During my time as a designer at National Museum Wales I have had to deal with displays of all shapes and sizes and the Dazu Rock Carvings exhibition provided a unique challenge, especially the heads!

The exhibition features many heavy stone heads, separated from the bodies by historical vandalism as well as some wear and tear (well, they are over 1000 years old!).

The problem posed was how to display them securely and yet in a good position for the viewing public. We also needed a flexible system that is quick: there was only ten days from the delivery to the practical installation!

Some weeks ago we had an idea in the design studio and called on the expertise of Annette and Mary from the Conservation department to discuss the merits of our thoughts.

“What if we set the stones in an expanding foam mould? Would it grip the sculpture securely and hold a display position?”

Mary and Annette both confirmed that if we employed a high-grade conservation material and sheathed the stone with polythene film, the stone would not be affected -in Layman’s terms, it would work!

As the icing on the cake we came up with the idea of adding a fabric layer that would act as the finish, ready for display. A mock up was quickly made and, wow! It worked brilliantly!

Mary and Annette made great progress and the heads were set into pre-made display boxes in a secure lab deep in the bowls of the Museum.

The fabric finish was trimmed and the boxes complete with the sculptures were transferred to the gallery for display with specialised lighting.

The heads joined larger items on specialised plinths and some very delicate carvings within cases. Further ingenious display methods were devised for each and every sculpture to ensure this truly amazing exhibition is as inspiring as possible.

We are all very excited to see this exhibition come together and are sure the public will love it too.

Simon Tozzo, Three Dimensional Designer, National Museum Wales

See more Dazu images on Flickr, keep up to date with Dazu on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @museum_cardiff  #dazuwales

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