Sugar and Spice

2011, Gardiner Museum, History, Temporary Exhibit
food and drink, international trade, porcelain, pottery, spices, status, terracotta
About This Project

Date: January 28 – May 1, 2011

Partner: Gardiner Museum

Venue: Lobby of the Gardiner Museum – map

Project Members: Kendra Ainsworth


Sugar and Spice is a thematic exhibition featured at the Gardiner Museum. Sugar and spices have been used in many ways for thousands of years around the globe. Highly sought after in trade, they also functioned as symbols of status and cultural identity, and their significance is exemplified by ceramic vessels designed specifically for their use. Placing 18th-century German porcelain sugar bowls alongside classic Mayan terracotta chocolate cups, Sugar and Spice connects objects from the Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection and explores the stories that sweets and spices can tell us about history, culture, and ourselves.


The theme of the exhibit provides a new and exciting way for members and regular visitors to engage with the collection and provides non-members and first-time visitors with a fun and intellectually accessible entry point into the museum and collection.


Sugar and Spice is featured in the lobby of the Gardiner Museum and is accompanied by a self-guided tour, which allows visitors to connect the theme throughout the permanent collection at their own pace, aided by a printed brochure.


The chief curator of the Gardiner Museum, Charles Mason, conceived of the theme of the exhibition as a part of an initiative to create more accessible thematic exhibitions in the Gardiner Museum’s lobby. I approached the Gardiner in August of 2010 with an interest in working with their collection and was offered the opportunity to curate this exhibition.


The interpretive format of the exhibition is text-based, with and introductory didactic panel, extended and tombstone labels for selected objects, and a printed guide for visitors to use throughout their tour and keep upon the end of their visit. Sugar and Spice was promoted on the Gardiner Museum website, in their quarterly What’s On guide, and in e-blasts. It was also featured in Faculty of Information publications relating to the graduating exhibition projects class.


Many thanks to the Gardiner Museum and all its staff for their enthusiasm and support for the project, particularly to Charles Mason for his expertise and advice. I would also like to thank Professor Matt Brower and all my fellow students in the exhibition project class at the Faculty of Information for their support and feedback. Thank you to the Faculty for the opportunity to pursue such exciting projects in the Museum Studies program.