For centuries Londoners have existed besides a series of rivers, brooks and waterways. Some are visible, others lie hidden beneath modern streets and pavements, but all hold secret histories that this exhibition seeks to uncover. "Secret Rivers", designed by Sarner for Museum of London Docklands, shows how London has been shaped by the Thames and its tributaries, and how they have in turn been shaped by Londoners.

London, UK
- Concept Design & Visualisation - Scheme & Detailed Design - Brand Development - Interactive Design - Lighting & Audio Design - Graphic Design - Art Direction

Client's brief

The brief was to create an exhibition which would help the museum reach a wider audience and stretch the guests’ thinking so that they leave with an increased awareness of the roles London’s rivers have played for Londoners throughout history and an appreciation of how London’s built and natural environment has been physically shaped by rivers. The exhibition aimed to create an atmospheric, imaginative, engaging and sometimes provocative and emotional experience for the visitor.

Our solution

Visitors were sent on a journey through 7 themed sections full of surprise and intrigue that immersed them in the history of 9 rivers. Drawing on the museum’s collection of archaeological artefacts, displayed alongside art, photography and film, the exhibition is innovative in pairing objects and art to tell stories through evidence and creativity. Aided by the evocative design, this immersive approach encouraged visitors to look closely, consider London in a new light and engage their imaginations.

We wanted to design a space that balanced traditional display techniques with atmospheric lighting, playful and informative graphic interpretation, immersive audio-visual and theatre to appeal to a wide audience of adults and families. This careful mix of techniques was designed to engage and reinforce the curated content, so that visitors left having learnt something new.

Secret Rivers has been a real success story for the museum. It welcomed 59,536 visitors, surpassing expectations with almost 50% more visitors than its original target, making it the 2nd best performing exhibition at Museum of London Docklands ever. Surveys revealed that over half of the visitors had not previously visited Museum of London Docklands or Museum of London, demonstrating the amazing draw the exhibition had to bringing new visitors to the museum.

'The final exhibition total [was] 59,536, which is 19,536 more than the original 40,000 target. This makes it the 2nd best performing exhibition at Docklands ever after Tunnel.'
Jack Stanley Marketing Campaigns Manager, Museum of London