First floor galleries

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

The National Portrait Gallery reopened the first floor galleries at Bodelwyddan Castle, Denbighshire, Wales, on 30 April 2003 following the complete refurbishment of its displays there. The Castle is one of the Gallery's three regional partnerships and houses over 100 portraits from the 19th-century collections including works by John Singer Sargent and the Pre-Raphaelites. Highlights include the majority of GF Watt's Hall of Fame series and important works by William Holman Hunt and Ford Madox Brown.

There are two principal elements to the redevelopment of the first floor galleries. The first creates three themed rooms containing new permanent, interactive displays which will enhance visitors' enjoyment and understanding of the portraits on display at Bodelwyddan Castle. Secondly, the remainder of the first floor has been converted to provide the Castle with much improved temporary exhibition spaces that can be accessed separately from the rest of the Castle through a new entrance and shop

The three rooms have the following themes: The Artist's Studio - a series of mises en scènes based upon five self-portraits in the collection; A Sense of Occasion - an interactive exploration of three group portraits; Portraits for All - an exploration of the mass production of portrait photographs during the Victorian period.

A variety of display techniques are used including computer interactives. One of these is based on the studio practice of Victorian photographer Camille Silvy - visitors will be able to pose for their photograph and create a "virtual" carte de visite using backdrops and props drawn from Silvy's portraits which they can then e-mail to themselves, their friends or their school. The National Portrait Gallery's Woodward Portrait Explorer is also available, allowing visitors to Bodelwyddan to access tens of thousands of portraits in the Gallery's collection.

Attracting a lively series of exhibitions, the new spaces are a real asset to both the Castle and the region. The inaugural exhibition, entitled "The National Portrait Gallery Collects" showcases recent acquisitions including Lewis Carroll's photographs of Alice Liddell and a selection of cutting edge portraits from the Gallery's contemporary collection. Like the scheme as a whole, the exhibition spaces have full disabled access. Further spaces are being adapted to provide facilities for education groups.

The project has been funded through the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which awarded a grant of £255,500, and through funding of over £200,000 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Gallery's grant-in-aid.