Exploring museums for creative inspiration

Since my wife is away in the US right now, I decided to spend some of the my after­noon at the Brit­ish Museum. I’m work­ing on a design pro­ject for The Eld­ers at the moment and, as part of that work, I needed to do some visu­al research into Tri­bal cos­tume and pattern. 

It was a fas­cin­at­ing exper­i­ence for because it’s been such a long time since I vis­ited a museum or gal­lery for the expli­cit pur­pose of research­ing a design pro­ject. I tend to live in my ima­gin­a­tion too much or draw from exist­ing brand assets. 

So it was deeply pleas­ur­able exper­i­ence to simply wander around explor­ing with my eyes. I was reminded of all the many happy after­noons I spent while I was a design stu­dent in Lon­don, ambling slowly around the empty halls at the back of the V&A or inhal­ing the musty atmo­sphere of some of the more unloved rooms in the bowels of the Sci­ence Museum. 

It’s a won­der­ful oppor­tun­ity just to look and see where your gaze takes you. There’s a con­stant, gentle absorp­tion of new know­ledge, under­stand­ing and con­nec­tions between cul­tures and peri­ods of his­tory that hap­pens dur­ing these times. You mustn’t feel too rushed or get dis­trac­ted too much by the out­side world. That’s why I tend to prefer the emp­ti­er gal­ler­ies where there aren’t as many mem­bers of the pub­lic, tak­ing selfies next to the big attrac­tions (you can tell which ones they are because they’re on a plinth, gen­er­ally right inside the door from the main hall). 

Once you can get far from mad­ding crowds (per­haps the “mad­den­ing” crowds is more appro­pri­ate) a rev­er­en­tial hush des­cends over the pieces and, if you can find a great room, you can lose your­self for hours, sketch­ing, learn­ing with you eyes and con­nect­ing some­how with the people who ori­gin­ally made the item you’re gaz­ing at. 

I will def­in­itely be look­ing hard for ways to bring this meth­od of work­ing back into all my pro­fes­sion­al prac­tise from now on because it can lead to some genu­inely delight­ful sur­prise dis­cov­er­ies and revelations. 

Few oth­er places than museums are so filled with pos­sib­il­it­ies for unex­pec­ted con­nec­tions to be made.