Behind the Scenes of an Exhibition: Hard Decisions!

This week we met with our colleague Elaine Sheldon from the Conservation Team to discuss display proposals and concerns about some of the objects we are hoping to show in our Life of Objects Exhibition. One of our hardest decisions is trying to narrow down our choice of material so that they will fit into the display cases, without looking cramped or damaging the items, but that the selection continues to reflect the themes and stories we wanted to tell.

Elaine & Splendid Weeping
Elaine & Splendid Weeping

Elaine Sheldon writes:
A member of the library’s collection care team is assigned to each exhibition; our role is to look after the objects ensuring they are not damaged by handling or display. We work with the curatorial team assessing the suitability of objects for exhibition; we also mount the exhibits and install the objects in the display cases. Life of Objects is a lovely exhibition to be working on because the objects on display are from the libraries rich visual collections. The selected objects are made from a variety of materials and range in date from the 17th to the 20th century.
A condition report will be completed for each object; this report will describe the condition of the object and document any areas of damage before the object goes on exhibition.
The objects in the exhibition will be displayed on textile covered boards which will be made in the collection care studio. Other objects will need further support including a glove belonging to Queen Victoria, from the Burney Collection, which has been selected for the exhibition.

Queen Victoria's Glove
Queen Victoria’s Glove

It was exciting to see how Elaine would tackle the content of this exhibition as the library’s usual exhibitions focus on books and literary works, not objects. Elaine’s expertise was really valuable; she instantly recognised issues related to the materiality of our objects, which made it slightly easier to discount some of our favourite items. Her understanding of how and what would work visually and practically was fascinating and it enabled us to look at the objects we had chosen from the group’s perspective rather than just a curatorial point of view. Understandably there were some items that could not be displayed; one example of this was the large typescript artwork “Splendid Weeping” by dom sylvester houédard, (seen with Elaine above), which proved difficult to fit in the case. Luckily Stella has discovered a mini version of Splendid Weeping that fits perfectly. Another reason for discounting certain items was due to them being considered for future exhibitions, for example Li Yuan-chia’s sou’wester.

Li Yuan chia’s sou’wester.

Our meeting with Elaine showed just how important it is to have input from all of the people involved in the planning of an exhibition to ensure the best possible outcome for the objects, the visitors and the team involved. We had some debate about how to display the objects, what colour backing boards to use and an animated discussion on whether to label or not to label, or rather how to label the objects. This may just be the precursor to the big debate on panel boards! Next stop our colleagues from the Heritage Imaging Team.

1 comment on “Behind the Scenes of an Exhibition: Hard Decisions!

  1. Pingback: Behind the Scenes of an Exhibition: Hard Decisions! — John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog | Maria Teresa de Palma

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