RAMM’s 10th anniversary of reopening

Ten years ago this December, RAMM reopened its doors to the public after a major redevelopment project which took four years to complete.

Making RAMM fit for the twenty-first century took a wide range of skills and expertise. The redevelopment repaired structural damage, allowed further growth with an additional entrance and a new temporary exhibitions gallery. All sections of the building were integrated to serve museum visitors for generations to come. The multimillion pound redevelopment was funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exeter City Council and many other sources. The project earned RAMM the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2012 award.

To celebrate this incredible achievement, we are sharing some of our staff’s favourite memories from the redevelopment.

Team work

‘The hive of activity with everyone pitching in was great. We stripped out, dismantled and packed up objects that had been in the museum for decades.’

Albert statue packaged up for redevelopment

Getting up close to objects

‘Our trained army of handlers and packers were arranged into teams and we all took turns working with them on a rota. It was warm, stuffy work, with lots of bending and reaching, always being careful to look out for delicate beaks and feet, delicate feathers and spines. As each case was dismantled we had to separate out specimens with signs of pests or other problems, identify and pack items into different boxes depending on whether they were needed for the new displays or would be going into long-term storage.’

Telling new stories

‘The first task, and in many ways the most interesting, was to work out what stories were going to be told. A key early decision was to work from the collections outwards. The starting point was to find the most interesting collections and decide what stories they could tell rather than think of interesting stories and find collections that fitted. This meant that RAMM was utilising its most important resource – the existing collections. It also meant that the new displays drew upon RAMM’s heritage.’

Creating displays

‘The Fly on the Wall gallery was looming. These were objects that were extremely delicate and, by the designs we had, were just floating in mid air. With each of the insect’s pins different sizes and none of them removable we needed a simple solution for an easy installation. We hit on an idea to insert them into hypodermic needles. With a good variation of internal diameters, the needles were cut to the required length and set into an accurately drilled hole. The pinned insect could then be placed into the needles once the acrylic was installed in the case. This also allowed the objects to be removed and replaced if there was any deterioration over time.’

Making personal connections

‘Highlights include moving the natural history collection (which ended up at well over one and a half thousand boxes) and dismantling the local history galleries, the latter of which was poignant for me as those galleries were my first memory of the museum as a child.’

Welcoming back visitors

‘The opening few weeks were exciting but exhausting in the extreme, not only were we doing totally new jobs for the first time but we had to cope with unprecedented numbers of visitors. The three most popular questions were (and still are!) “Where is the café, where are the toilets and where’s Gerald?!”’

‘Standing in the exciting and newly-glistening Devon & Exeter gallery, watching as the first visitors came in on Gold Ticket day, is a satisfying memory that will stay with me forever.’

Gold ticket holders were the first to see the new RAMM
Gold ticket holders were the first to see the new RAMM

‘Commissioning Steve Knightley to write a song for the reopening of RAMM and having absolutely no idea what he was going to come up with. The result was Home to a Million Thoughts (on Show of Hands Wake The Union CD) which Steve performed in the Courtyard at one of our celebratory opening events in December 2011. It doesn’t matter how many time I hear it, still makes the hairs stand up on my arms.’

We recently released a new music video for RAMM’s song. You can watch Steve Knightly performing Home to a Million Thoughts on RAMM’s YouTube channel.

What do you remember most about visiting the new RAMM? Maybe you still have your Gold Ticket!

This content is viewable by members only. Login or sign up to get access.