Exhibitions on a limited budget

Eastbourne Heritage Service

Eastbourne Heritage Service has long had the aspiration of giving the archaeology and local history of the town more of a voice through exhibitions. We were lucky enough to receive a £70,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund to support one such project – Eastbourne Ancestors.

There are more than 300 skeletons in the collection. The aim of the project was to give an “osteo-biography” or story from the bones for each individual in the collection. The research and analysis carried out by volunteers and museum staff culminated in an exhibition at the Pavilion in Eastbourne.

Lessons learnt and money-saving tips:

  • Don’t always go with the first solution you think of – it may not be the right one and it may not be cost effective.
  • Think outside of the Perspex case – rather than use large display cases we decided to commission a local sculptor to create willow figures to represent our unknown ancestors. These figures held smaller cubes with Saxon objects safely enclosed inside.
  • Use internal skills and resources – we were able to create much of the exhibition ourselves using friendly local businesses for print and Perspex.
  • Establish working relationships with local businesses – this was vital, especially as some of the initial ideas for the exhibition were impractical, costly and sometimes ludicrous.
  • Have a plan but be prepared to adapt – work out the budget first and think big. Plan your ideal exhibition and change bits that don’t work as you go along.

Eastbourne Heritage Service is part of Re:Fresh, a project to improve the quality of displays and the visitor experience at museums in Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex. It is managed by Kate Measures consultancy, now Heritage Insider, commissioned by the South East Museum Development Consortium and funded by Arts Council England.

Kathryn Buckland is the heritage assistant at Eastbourne Heritage Service.

If you are looking to improve your current or next exhibition then you might want to check out these resources:

You can also see many more examples of indoor, outdoor, all sorts of fab interpretation on our Flickr site.