Gilbert White’s home tells the story of his life-long and ground-breaking investigation into the natural world. Hosted within the house is The Oates Collections. The collections celebrate two very different explorers of the natural world, Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates and his uncle, British naturalist, Frank Oates.
Following an extremely successful redisplay of the Lawrence Oates galleries, Imagemakers was again chosen to work with the Museum Trust to bring the Frank Oates story to life and create introductory interpretation for visitors to this beautiful 18thCentury house. An HLF-funded project, Imagemakers undertook the detailed planning, design and implementation the ’Inspiring Journeys’ scheme which inspires people to engage with the stories of these three explorers of the natural world.
The latest galleries to be redesigned interpret the life of Frank Oates and tell the story of this upper-class Victorian traveller with a keen interest in the natural world and a burning desire to explore.
Visitors enter through a door dressed in a Victorian style with a velvet curtain and an original portrait of Frank and begin by exploring his youthful inspirations, and a period study, illness and convelesance, and onward to his journeys to Central America and Africa. Striking graphics complement a suite of showcases displaying a fascinating array of objects; from early family photographs and Frank’s wildlife illustrations through to African tribal dress and weapons.
Interactives are built into Victorian style furniture; one of these is an audio track of Oates talking which is triggered when a visitor sits on a chair that overlooks the beautiful garden of the house.
Frank’s first exploration overseas was to Central America and this is represented by a interactive rainforest tree with triggered audio, rubbing plaques and colouring-in opportunities for younger visitors. A nearby touchscreen invites visitors to explore Oates’ bird collection as well as play an observation game.
The final space tells the story of Frank’s final journey through an, at the time, largely un-chartered Africa to Victoria Falls. Here he lived ‘on the road’ and befriended a Zulu chief and this trip is recounted via a film displayed in a replica wagon containing the possessions Oates would have taken with him.
As well as the interpretation work of the Oates galleries, Imagemakers has planned, designed and installed displays the visitor welcome area, historic kitchen and library. In addition, striking signage throughout the house and grounds has been fitted in keeping with the refurbishments.