Celts: Reflections from Dundee

With the final chance to see Reflections on Celts on the last leg of its national tour, it seems an ideal time to look back and share the experience of being involved in this spotlight tour at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.

Reflections on Celts is on display at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum until Sunday 26 March 2017.

Part of my role has been to help promote the exhibition and with so many stories to share and artefacts on show, it has been a really enjoyable show to work on.  Not least at the exhibition launch, where we had lots of fun dressing up the ‘Dundee Penguins’ public art sculptures as Celtic warriors!

Dundee Penguins’ public art sculptures as Celtic warriors!
Dundee Penguins public art sculptures dressed as Celtic warriors.

Working in partnership with National Museums Scotland and the British Museum is always something to relish, and this time round it gave us the opportunity to bring two stunning Iron Age mirrors to The McManus to show alongside pieces from Dundee City’s own collection. The metal mirrors have polished reflective surfaces on one side and swirling Celtic art on the reverse dating from around 100 BC. Having such significant items as a centrepiece to the exhibition allowed the curatorial team to draw in new visitors and celebrate the influence the Celts had on the surrounding area by developing some really interesting local collaborations.

360 view of the exhibition
360 view of the exhibition.

I was impressed with the results of a 3D visualisation of the Iron Age hillfort on Dundee Law, which was developed by the 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee. Those familiar with Dundee will recognise the Law as the conical shape that dominates the city skyline on approach from the south. To be transported back 2000 years to see how a stone and timber hillfort may have looked with the River Tay sweeping before it, is quite something. The film then goes on to show the fort in the midst of a fierce fire that looks absolutely stunning.

I was particularly interested to see how our exhibitions connect with audiences outside the physical space of the galleries. It is worth noting that this film gained over 14,000 views on Facebook, which highlights how this is a valuable type of content to really engage a digital audience.

Another personal highlight for me is a bronze crescent that has been recreated by a local artist, Roddy Mathieson, who based his work on some late 18th century drawings of a plaque that was found near Monifieth. The newly made plaque is very striking, and what I found really interesting is that Roddy emphasised the challenge of recreating the crescent even with technological developments at his fingertips. This illustrates the craftsmanship of the original Pictish makers and the high level of technical skills they possessed.

Bronze replica created by artist Roddy Mathieson
Bronze replica created by artist Roddy Mathieson.

The McManus display features three key time periods; the Iron Age, Post Roman and the Celtic revival, with a range of objects from Pictish metalwork to items excavated from Hillforts providing an insight into the lives of the people in those periods. Other notable items on display include John Duncan’s superb ‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ and a replica of the Hunterston Brooch.

There is a last chance to see Reflections on Celts at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum until Sunday 26 March 2017 and entry is free.

You can follow The McManus on Twitter @McManusDundee.

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