Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's behind a display?

We thought you might enjoy seeing how our exhibitor, Randy Elliott, puts together a display. The photos here were taken as Randy worked on the display of Arts and Crafts items which will be on view this month at the History Center.

An Arts and Crafts Crib

There are two ways items are shown to the public at the History Center: exhibits, which are components or distinct spaces of the galleries depicting specific eras in Allen County/Fort Wayne history, and displays, which are temporary groupings around a topic such as fashion or architecture.

A great deal more work goes into setting up a display than you might imagine. First comes research. Randy utilizes various resources on the web to find items that are representative of the time that is being depicted in the display. Since dates seldom match, he looks for a consensus among a number of web sites for his use in determining what kinds of artifacts to look for within our collection.

Researching the Arts & Crafts Display

Then Randy must locate items in the History Center’s collection, make sure all of the cases being used are clean, clean the items for display, find appropriate props to go with those items, determine the layout of each case, and then….actually get to the work of setting up the cases and moving them into place.

Moving and assembling a display case

Signage is also a necessary component and most displays will have main, secondary and title signage as well as artwork gleaned from printed materials if an actual artifact is not available.

As you can see from these photos, our display cases are portable…to the extent that it takes at least two guys to move them…and sometimes four to put them together.

The display cases are moved from staging to the Shields Room and other cases set up for additional displays.

Most of the work is accomplished “behind the scenes” because the museum is open to school groups and others while the displays are being set up and wheeled into place. We love our building but one of the challenges of utilizing a structure built for another purpose is that you use what space you have instead of a space designed for a specific purpose. Thus our “staging area” is really just a former office and we have our artifacts in various parts of the building, necessitating going from floor to floor gathering items for displays. Museums that are new construction often will have staging areas built into the design which provide for better efficiency. But our historic building—which is an exhibit in and of itself-- has far more atmosphere than a newer model.

At work in an office downstairs where signage tools are stored and some displays set up.

1 comment:

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