When the Portland Museum of Art’s Learning and Interpretation department staff members noticed there were a lot of portraits in the museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection,” they also realized the folks in those portraits seemed to be holding some sort of prop.
“Once we looked more closely at the portraits, we noticed how interesting and fun each one was and how many props they used. We wanted to recreate that idea,” said Meghan Quigley, Learning and Interpretation Assistant at the museum.
The interactive Portrait Gallery project offers visitors a chance to dress up like the portraits in the collection and snap a photo of themselves with an iPad mounted on the wall. Visitors can also photograph themselves with their own devices but the iPad gives you a chance to appear on the museum’s website and Facebook page. (Although if you share your own portrait on social media, be sure to tag it #pmaportraits so the museum folks can find it.)
Quigley set out to find period-appropriate pieces for the gallery and chose four headpieces and a couple of ruffs (fancy collars). But the capes to cover visitors’ every day clothing were designed and sewn in the museum’s studio space by museum staff. The landscape backdrop was designed and painted by Quigley.
The museum staff had some fun with the props based on what actually appeared in the exhibition’s portraits. The props visitors can choose range from fake flowers and quill pens to a toy lamb and a skull replica. Yup, someone in the Berger Collection is actually holding a skull.
You can get a full behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Portrait Gallery on the museum’s website – portlandmuseum.org/blog/behind-pma-portraits. Or you can simply visit the museum and take your own portrait. The “Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection” and it’s accompanying Portrait Gallery will be open until Jan. 4, 2015.
28: Number of weeks it took to create the Portrait Gallery from the initial brainstorming idea.
22: The number of props and costumes available to visitors.
10: How many feet tall the backdrop is.
400: Visitors who have stopped by to take their photo in the first 8 days.
6: Number of centuries of British Art represented in the exhibition, “Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection.”
21: The number of portraits in the exhibition.