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Becoming Richard Burton

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

The ‘Becoming Richard Burton’ exhibition follows the remarkable story of how Richard Jenkins, a boy from Port Talbot Wales, became Richard Burton, the international star of stage and screen.

Through the Richard Burton personal diaries and archives, the exhibition reveals the man behind the headlines – Richard Burton the husband, father, reader, writer and passionate Welshman.

We worked alongside the Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales team on this project to further develop and deliver the physical exhibition space in Cardiff and create the associated graphic design elements.

It is safe to say that I was pretty worried this time last year losing our own designers, but the positivity and confidence that PDR brought to the project just made the whole experience of working with them a joy!

Ashley McAvoy | Touring Exhibitions Manager | Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

The Museum began work on the ‘Becoming Richard Burton’ exhibition almost 4 years ago in 2017. It had been through various incarnations whilst they worked out the best way of presenting the large number of archives. Ashley McAvoy, Touring Exhibitions Manager at the Museum, had been inspired by a User Centred Design workshop held by PDR that he had attended through the Clwstwr project. From that experience, and having lost members of his own design team, was keen to get us involved with the project.

We looked at ways we could utilise our User Centred Design practices to examine how the visitor would interact with the space, gain a rich experience from the exhibition and how to best communicate the narrative.

Jo Ward | Design Researcher | PDR


We started the program of work with a Kick-Off Workshop that took a Service Design approach. This allowed us to engage with as many of the stakeholders from the Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales as possible. This exercise provided us with a deeper understanding of their vision and insight into what they wanted people to get from the exhibition by gaining empathy for the visitor. The workshop also helped us create a closer working relationship with their team that would increasingly prove invaluable as the project progressed and with the unforeseen challenges of Covid-19 on the horizon.

Following the workshop, we commenced the project with a number of site visits whilst simultaneously researching alternative museum spaces to review the techniques that they were employing to best engage with their particular audiences.

Each graphic element was designed in parallel to the 3D design to ensure they responded to each other to deliver the narrative. Our design packages also looked at the sound and lighting elements, thinking of the whole user experience - what you see, ways you get directed around sound, use of colours to tell a story. We created a 3D model of the exhibition floor layout in CAD (Computer Aided Design) so that we could then place the artefacts and graphics ‘in situation’, enabling us to create a virtual walkthrough of what the space would look like. . This virtual model was particularly useful in this instance as we were increasingly unable to access the museum site as the project progressed due to the Covid-19 restraints put in place across the country.

The museum team had already initiated a large amount of work before our collaboration so we already had a large body of work to evaluate, understand and structure to then create a shared vision for the flow of the museum space.

It has been a multi-disciplinary effort from the team where we used elements of Service Design, User Centred Design and 3D Product Design. We took the initial draft plan and mapped it out to tell a coherent story that best explained Burton's life.

Stuart Clarke | Product Designer | PDR

In conclusion, this has been an incredibly rewarding project for our team to work on, and although exhibitions is a space we had not previously done a great deal of work in, we successfully utilised a multidisciplinary approach to create an exhibition that both the Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, and PDR are extremely proud of.

Having the opportunity to work so closely with PDR and gaining a rich insight into design thinking methodologies with this exhibition has been a really rewarding and illuminating experience.

Ashley McAvoy | Touring Exhibition Manager | Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

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