The museum, owned and operated by Historic Scotland, houses a unique collection of dark age andmedieval high stone crosses, grave slabs and grave markers relating to the island and its influence on the west coast of Scotland during the early centuries of medieval christianity after its foundation by St. Columba in the the 6th-century.
KSLD were brought onto the project at its conception with a very clear brief, to design a lighting scheme that would bring out the texture and carving work of the stones, many of which had been badly eroded after centuries of exposure. By working closely with the HS interpretation unit and exhibition designers, KSLD developed a lighting solution that allowed specific and accurate lighting for each object.
Kevan Shaw says ” The lighting is not simply illumination of the objects. Here, by very careful and considered lighting we are creating a degree of visual restoration of the objects. We are also using light as a principle interpretive medium leading stories rather than simply illustrating them. “
For the first time in an exhibition project KSLD has used LED light sources exclusively. Part of the requirement of the brief was to minimize energy and maintenance costs; this is particularly beneficial for the Abbey being in such a remote location.
Lighting Designer, Martin Granese says: ’As our first all-LED exhibition lighting scheme, it has been a real challenge to ensure that we get the lighting quality and flexibility demanded by such installations. We have worked hard with the rest of the design team and luminaire manufacturers to ensure that the scheme meets all expectations. There has been a real maturation of LED over the last two/three years and it's exciting to be able to be at the forefront of this technology cross-over.’
The focal point of the exhibition is a trio of restored high stone crosses (St. John’s, St. Matthew's and St. Oran’s) that were a result of artistic and theological experimentation particular to Iona. St John’s was one of a number of high crosses that would mark the processional path towards the Abbey where people would stop and pray as they passed by. This particular Celtic cross is one of the earliest examples found in Scotland.
When originally positioned in the landscape these crosses were deliberately orientated on the north-south axis, with the form of the cross being revealed differently during morning and afternoon prayers. The Historic Scotland interpretation unit wanted to address this in the exhibition. In response KSLD created a dynamic lighting sequence that plots a sun-path, the changing light slowly reveals the carvings on each face of the cross as the angle of incidence and colour temperature simulate sunrise to sunset. This sequence was coordinated with a change in the AV general soundscape track that gives audial clues to the daily rituals of the Abbey’s religious inhabitants.