30 years of exhibitionism #5 – The Deep Aquarium, Hull

Mon 01 Apr 2024 Opinion

I have been an Interpretive Planner for museums around the world for over 30 years. When I started in 1992, the term was rarely used. Family and friends still ask: “What is it exactly that you do?” So I thought I would look back over my 30 years in museums, zoos, aquaria and heritage sites to pick out some of the favourite exhibits that I have worked on as a way of explaining the process of interpretive planning and what it is. Here we look at The Deep Aquarium, Hull in the UK.

Opened in 2002, The Deep is an awe-inspiring aquarium visitor attraction in Hull at Sammy’s Point overlooking the Humber Estuary, as well as a conservation and education charity. Designed by Terry Farrell and built as part of the UK National Lottery’s Millennium Commission project, this Millennium regeneration project helped pave the way to Hull’s UK City of Culture Status and was awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the 2002 RIBA White Rose Awards.

Working as the Interpretive Planning Director for MET Studio at the time, we worked closely with Terry Farrell Partners (an experience in itself!) to devise an experience masterplan for a visitor journey that wove itself around what was to be the deepest aquarium tank in Europe at the time and informed the porous nature of the architecture. Billed as “the world’s only submarium”, the resulting exhibits contain thousands of sea creatures (including seven species of shark), 2,500,000 litres of water and 87 tonnes of salt. Since opening, it has welcomed over 8.5 million visitors and well over half a million children have taken part in educational programmes.