Downton Abbey: The Exhibition – Designing a touring visitor attraction

Much like a rock band on tour that has to pack up and move city and reassemble itself in the next location, Mather & Co faced some of the same challenges designing a touring visitor attraction. Downton Abbey had to be designed so that it could be packed up and shipped to the next destination on it’s worldwide tour schedule and be reassembled easily in the next place which, taking into account around 55 costumes and over 100 props, posed a design challenge. The exhibition designs had to ensure that it not only engages with visitors and does justice to the authenticity of Downton Abbey, but that it has a degree of functionality too.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition will tour for five years visiting the US and Australia amongst other worldwide destinations. It will be reassembled in many different new homes, and was designed to be reconfigurable to the different venues it visits. The zones of the exhibition can be rearranged and reordered to create different visitor journeys to suit the venue space available. The perimeter exhibition walls are modular and use cam locks to bolt together in a chosen configuration. Modular units can also be broken down and reconfigured into different arrangements to suit the venue and the flooring laid on modular underlay tiles to so that it can be relayed in any configuration at the next venue.

Downton Abbey The Exhibition

Mather & Co worked closely with Imagine Exhibitions, the operator who will tour the exhibition around the world. It designed a continually decreasing modular system (think of taking apart and reassembling a Russian Doll) that allows the exhibition to be broken down into components and be crated for transportation across the world. The component parts such as the ‘zone’, ‘unit’, ‘graphic’, display case, object mounts, object within the case and interactive AVs are all individually referenced in schedules for the purpose of building the exhibition – being documented for break down and reinstallation.

Wall heights and units are consciously sized so they can be stacked together side-by-side and double height to fit into a container. Units are designed with adjustable legs and lockable castors where necessary to ensure easy moving and installation. And the AV hardware is located locally to its related exhibit to reduce long runs of cabling and networking.

Designing a touring exhibition means working closely with partners to make sure that elementary logistics issues don’t unpick the visitor’s experience. Downton Abbey has to be reassembled in each location the way it was designed to deliver the same immersive experience to every visitor – over and over again.

If you’d like further information please contact Samantha Withers at Mather & Co SamanthaW@matherandco.com