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WOW: Cork displays more than 9000 years of human history

Interview with Emma Lochery, curator, and designer of The Bridge Collection museum News

The museum and cultural district of WoW - World of Wine - in Porto has a museum displaying more than 9000 years of history and evolution of drinking vessels. In a journey dating back to 7000 BC, The Bridge Collection museum brings together more than 1800 pieces that tell the story of man and mankind through these vessels, at the same time ordinary and distinct. It includes pieces that are part of our daily life routines and that gain prominence in rituals, celebrations, and commemorations.

To display this historical collection, cork was the element chosen as it is a natural, discreet, and sustainable material, which enhances the vessels on display. Amorim Cork Composites was the partner chosen to develop the museum display cases.

We spoke to Emma Lochery, curator, and designer of The Bridge Collection museum, and Co-Founder of TheLocheryProject, to learn more about the importance of using cork in a space dedicated to the history of humanity.

Why cork?

As curator of The Bridge Collection, my goal was to connect the museum and the collection in an engaging and accessible way and, on a broader spectrum, to connect the physical exhibition with the narrative and the history of the collection.

In this sense, I tried to bring together art and ecology. Cork offers both, being a sustainable product that offers a unique and striking visual experience.

In addition to being used as a raw material for the display cases, I defended from day one that it was fundamental to use cork on the museum floor, not only because of its natural and sustainable characteristics, but also for its exceptional ability to reduce noise, and add an extra comfort when walking. These are just small details that make all the difference and improve the visitor’s experience.

What are the criteria for using cork on the museum display cases?

There are specific materials that can and cannot be used in museums. The conservation protocol is the key to the preservation of a collection. Generally speaking, it is not allowed to use products, glues, or paints, for example, that may release chemicals as they may damage the exhibition materials.

The raw material supplied by Amorim Cork Composites is remarkably neutral and meets the conservation requirements. In this way, cork, which is a stable, durable, and environmentally friendly product, has met all the necessary requirements, in addition to also adding a unique and elegant look.

During the design and development phase of the display cases, we chose to produce an assembly mechanism that didn’t require the use of glue or fixation. In this way, the display case is completely natural, without the addition of any chemicals - which is great to ensure the conservation conditions of the drinking vessels - from the old vessels made of unglazed terracotta to those made of precious metals.

“Cork, which is a stable, durable, and environmentally friendly product, has met all the necessary requirements, in addition to also adding a unique and elegant look.”

Emma Lochery

Is cork and ancestral drinking vessels a good combination?

The history of cork is intrinsically and romantically linked with wine and drinking vessels, from ancient times to the present day.

When this project started, I visited Amorim Cork Flooring to analyze the variety of flooring options available, and later had the opportunity  to visit Amorim Cork Composites. The multitude of solutions available that come from a single raw material was incredible.

From here, and in close research and design collaboration with Amorim Cork Composites designer Raquel Laranjeira, we developed a solution for the structures that would keep the collection in stable environmental conditions inside the display case, while highlighting the collection in an elegant way for visitors.

The drinking vessel-cork-wine triad is the whole narrative that involves WoW, so the combination of this historical and very Portuguese raw material was a sure choice.

What do you believe is the future when it comes to using cork in museums?

As museums around the world are looking for additional ways to incorporate sustainable elements into their institutions, the diversity of uses cork offers to help achieve an eco-label status without visually compromising an exhibition makes cork a futuristic product, already available in the present.

This is a raw material with a wide range of uses. I have seen very interesting installations by Amorim at the Tate Modern and at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. I also saw it being used as a support structure for Vitra Design, in Germany. The challenge of The Bridge Collection was to add cork to the display cases, which turned out extremely well.

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