A storytelling hub at the heart of the city
The Box is Southwest England’s very own treasure chest. Open it and who knows what you might find... A gigantic woolly mammoth rearing up in the middle of a gallery or a flotilla of Victorian naval figureheads sailing overhead in the entrance space. Perhaps a sea of pickled creatures or curious pieces of contemporary art. Its collections span everything from social history to fine art, the natural world to naval memorabilia.
The Box was born out of a need to protect six of Plymouth’s at-risk collections and create a new cultural quarter in Southwest England. Much more than a museum, it is a hub of art, culture, learning and leisure for locals and visitors alike. We began with a series of masterplanning exercises that mapped how to bring together multiple organisations, collections and public spaces into one complete whole – logistically, operationally, culturally, interpretively.
A constellation of different collections under one roof
We envisioned The Box as a space that deliberately blurs the boundaries between learning spaces, social spaces and museum spaces. The result is brimming with unexpected juxtapositions of objects and stories. Places to sit, study and socialise are found alongside displays; local family histories sit next to extraordinary stories of maritime journeys that have changed the world.
Each gallery looks at the city from a different perspective. You can walk in the footsteps of Francis Drake and Scott of the Antarctic, learn about the prehistoric landscape or explore the West Country’s artistic legacy. Standout moments include an immersive port model, an abstracted model of the Mayflower ship and an installation of 1,200 portraits of descendants from the Mayflower’s famous voyage.
Bold and brilliant
Most striking of all is the flotilla of fourteen Victorian naval figureheads suspended overhead in the triple-height entrance hall. The result of painstaking conservation and engineering, the figureheads appear to sail across the space, poetically recalling Plymouth’s role as point of departure for countless maritime voyages.
Each gallery truly takes on a life of its own. The result is a series of bold and brilliant, quirky and witty spaces. They break away from tradition to create a warm and friendly feeling – a true city museum designed with the public at its heart.