As part of Reimagining Wordsworth, the 2020 celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, Nissen Richards studio designed the first phase of a re-imagined visitor journey at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s former Lake District home. Dove Cottage forms part of the larger Wordsworth Grasmere site, for which Nissen Richards Studio created branding and signage, as well as the exhibition design for the new museum, which opened in a second phase of the project.
For Dove Cottage, Nissen Richards Studio’s approach was not to replicate the original, but to intimate and evoke its past history. New furniture, commissioned from local craftsmen with specialist historic knowledge, was built in the style of the period and sits alongside real, surviving furniture. The studio’s interpretational approach was to create a film that visitors see first, working with film-maker Nick Street. Next, sound designer Carolyn Downing created a soundscape that reverberates all around the ground floor, breathing life into the home and creating a sense of the lives lived here. As visitors proceed, they hear subtle snatched sounds, as if from the next room or coming in through the window, creating a rich picture of everyday life and including children playing and muffled conversations, utilising a variety of voices and local accents.
This impressionistic sense of the house and its history is built on further as visitors go upstairs and discover the first objects on display, including a journal belonging William’s beloved sister, diarist, poet and writer Dorothy Wordsworth. The various objects were acquired by The Wordsworth Trust with Nissen Richards Studio working on their staging, creating ‘cluster stories’ to serve as conversation points for the Dove Cottage guides. Dorothy’s journal, for example, sits within a writing desk designed by Nissen Richards Studio, which opens to reveal the journal’s showcase.
The Wordsworth Trust
Grasmere, the Lake District, UK