17 Aug 2017

The Reading Abbey Quarter: Then and Now exhibition has been a bit of an experiment for us. This was our chance to see what would work for the new Reading Abbey outdoor panels before they are put into the ground around Reading town centre. These are a vital part of the new package of interpretation that is part of the wider  Reading Abbey Revealed project.

At the Museum we really value the feedback and comments people give us. We work so closely on these projects that sometimes we can be blinded by our work; unable to see something obvious or get caught up in the excitement of a new idea.

We all know what it can be like to be stopped and asked to give five minutes to answer a questionnaire when all you really want to do is have a look at the displays or get some tea and cake. But it is very important and we do take on board what people say. We always have to remember that we might be working on the project but it is for the people of Reading and if the town doesn’t like it we’ve failed!

So a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to fill in questionnaires or put post-it notes on the wall of the exhibition. We have read each and every one.

Post it notes on an image of St Mary's church
Our photograph with your post-it note comments.

Overall people liked the panels and would stop around town to read them. These panels will be placed across the town and tell the story of the Abbey and its effect on Reading. The content was popular, with many people finding it interesting and liking how it was aimed at different levels of knowledge. But we have also taken on board a few small comments and made a couple changes to the text. The timeline was also a great success and where possible we have tried to make it more relevant to the area where each panel will be sited.

One of the biggest areas of feedback has been the legibility of the writing on the panels with the colour scheme being difficult for people to read. We agree! Our designers have now looked at an alternative text design to make it easier on the eye and also more accessible for people who are visually impaired.

Rightly people have asked about the durability of the panels. Is it vandal proof? Will the colour fade away? Again our designers had already thought about this by using materials with a track-record for this type of use, and we are checking to make sure the ink used will have a life expectancy of many years!

Within the exhibition we tried a new style of caption. The design and placement was something we wanted to do to see if it would work. Again we agree with the comments and the labels in the new Abbey display at the Museum will go back to black writing on a white background as we have done before.

There is still time to give feedback on the panel. In mid-September the panel will be taken out of the gallery and relocated to Chain Street just behind John Lewis and St Mary’s Minster church. The panel has been redesigned so you will be able to have a look at the second draft and feedback on that as well. We are moving it to Chain Street because we want to make sure we get the feedback of as many people in Reading as possible and it’s also a great opportunity to tell people about the Reading Abbey Revealed project. If you haven’t been please pop down and let us know what you think.

The Reading Abbey Revealed project is for the town. Your five minute questionnaires and post-it note have made a difference in how we have looked at the panel. The project is better off for it. Thank you again!

prototype design for interpretation panel
A draft design for the test St Mary's interpretation panel