Thursday, 9 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- 1906 to 1913 Exhibits

Today’s musing about the exhibit is a bit different from ones in the past. This one isn’t about content but about how exhibits are created.

Sometimes just one sentence or two in an article or piece of writing can really get you to think and to question how you do something.

The other day I was reading an article on tips for writing for museum visitors. I’ve read articles by the author, Philip Yenawine, before and also sat in on a webinar where he was a presenter. I always enjoy his work and find it to offers a lot of ideas. Such was again true of this article.
Days later I’m still thinking about the article or, more specifically, the last two sentences:

“Sign your writing, ensuring that the reader knows that the comments come from some source that they could get to know as they do a columnist. Avoid the anonymous voice of authority.”

Right on the cover of a book it is obvious who the author is. There is usually no doubt who wrote an article. Artists sign their work. Movies proudly claim who the actors are. But for the regular museum visitor there is no “author” for an exhibit. The exhibit comes from that magical world of “authority” and “experts.”

So, why’s this the case? How would visitors react if at the beginning of an exhibit, there was a sign: Research and labels by…, Exhibit design by …, Direction and project management by … Would it make people feel as if they could better interact with the exhibit? Would it increase their involvement?

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