The aim of this project was to research and provide interpretation for several portraits from collections at Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, for a year-long portraits exhibition at the Shipley Art Gallery beginning in March 2012. I examined various interpretive approaches, other than text labels, to encourage visitor engagement with the paintings and create a new and different display in the gallery. I used the National Archives to spend time researching some of the sitters and artists. I spent a day in the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archives researching sitters and artists, as well as using previous exhibition catalogues to inspire ideas for sub-topics or ways of looking at portraits in different ways. I took the opportunity to visit the exhibitions which were on at the National Portrait Gallery for research of interpretation techniques. I also visited Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire for a day to view their newly-developed portrait galleries.

The outcome will be an exhibition in 2012 in the main gallery of the Shipley. I will develop a microsite in tandem with the exhibition opening to show new findings and offer a digital alternative to the interpretation used in the exhibition, alongside images. I have already written new labels for the paintings I was able to research and hope to develop the rest of the exhibition in a similar vein – using some of the ideas for subthemes that I have developed. All of the new research will be incorporated into the internal database so all staff will have access. I’m keen to develop a specialism in British Portraiture, an area I am very interested in and wish to learn more about.  The bursary has helped me to find areas of interest within this sphere of research and given me a greater depth of knowledge, particularly regarding the works which TWAM holds in its collection. The bursary has gotten me involved with the Understanding British Portraits network which is proving very useful for the research, and meeting other people within the sector.