The work of Communications Design lecturer Toni Roberts has been highly commended in the recent Museums and Galleries National Awards (MAGNAs).
Roberts was part of the team that worked on the redevelopment of the Royal Mint’s Factory Viewing Gallery, which was nominated in the Permanent Exhibition or Gallery Fitout category.
Her role was interpretation planning and research; process diagram design; text for graphics and touch screens; and touch screen storyboarding and project management for the space, which communicates complex coin-making processes while maximising views of the factory floor. She worked with design studio White Cube, which designed the Gallery's physical environment.
Roberts said exhibition and interpretation of manufacturing was rare in Australia, and the Royal Mint’s Factory Viewing Gallery had been a unique draw-card for schools, domestic and international visitors.
It has been the Mint’s main tourist attraction since it opened in 1965, and was well overdue for a refurbishment.
She said interpreting the facility presented certain challenges: the factory does not function on weekends, so there is little for visitors to see; complex technical processes must be explained; the process sequence is not evident in the factory layout; and many machines are enclosed, offering visitors no immediate cues as to their function.
In summary, the main challenges were “to make the complex coherent and the invisible visible.”
“My strategy for the interpretation was to distil the coin making process into a simple colour coded diagram of stages and steps within each stage,” she said.
“The process had never been documented in this way before. Lengthy text descriptions and technical manuals existed for some processes, but there was no complete schematic of the process from design through to the finished product.”
Regular consultation with all levels of staff throughout the development process ensured accuracy of content, which was shaped to create a meaningful and coherent visitor story, whilst remaining true to the fundamental principles and processes.
A colour-coded diagram formed a foundation for the exhibition environment, being reflected in the graphics, wall colours, touch screen housing and graphics, and even the floor. It aims to reinforce visitor comprehension of the stages in the coin-making process. Design studio Icelab was also involved in the project.
The Royal Australian Mint's new Factory Viewing gallery was officially launched in Canberra last month.
The MAGNAs recognise excellent work nationally in the categories of exhibition, public programs and sustainability projects.
Roberts hopes to be involved in the next stage of the project – the Australian History gallery.