When you are exploring a museum exhibit you might not give much thought about what went into creating it. Developing an exhibit takes many hours of research, planning, and preparation before it is finally ready for public viewing.
Our exhibit schedule is planned a year in advance. This allows staff the time to locate source materials, research the topic, design and print text panels, and review the museum’s collections and archives to find artefacts, photos, documents, etc. that will be incorporated into the exhibit.
For some exhibits, we may need to consult with people from outside of the museum, such as experts in that field of study and/or community members who can provide valuable local knowledge, including stories relevant to the exhibit. Planning a year in advance allows staff time to conduct interviews and to obtain permission to include the information individuals have provided in the exhibit.
Exhibit designers must also consider the amount of space available. There’s nothing worse than working on an exhibit for months only to discover when you go to install it that the space is too small for an artefact or for a portion of the exhibit. Being aware of the space available is crucial for every exhibit and will influence what items will be used.
One other factor we keep in mind when installing the exhibit is the placement. Can all the text be seen? Can all the artefacts be seen? Is one artefact blocking or partially blocking another? Sometimes this can be difficult, particularly for smaller museums where exhibit space is restricted.
These are just a few things designers need to consider when creating an exhibit. Next time you are at a museum take a few moments to look at the exhibit from the point of view of an exhibit designer. What elements went into the exhibit? Are there text panels? Are there artefacts? How about an interactive and/or multisensory component? How have these elements been put together? Looking at the exhibit with a designer’s eyes puts a whole new spin on museum exhibits. Enjoy!