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  • 1.  Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-05-2017 01:29 PM


    Does anyone have guidelines or policies available that illustrate what kind of exhibition-related documents should be archived?  We have old curatorial files that need to be cleaned out but we don't want to discard items that might be important to keep for future reference.

    Thank you!

    Kathy Reichenbach

    Bruce Museum

    Greenwich CT


  • 2.  RE: Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-06-2017 07:59 AM
    From my experience, some of the most important things to keep are photos of the exhibit installed, all of your research notes and design intentions for the exhibit,  scripts for the label copy, digital and printed files of any illustrations/graphics/ etc, Bibliography of resources and references, design and construction drawings and specifications, and contact information for researchers, writers, designers and fabricators. Lists of objects, art works, graphics, interactive stations and other elements used. Collection numbers and usual storage locations for the objects and art works can save time later when creating a new exhibit with elements of previous exhibits.

    Be sure to put a DATE and AUTHOR/CREATOR on the documents/digital files. This will come in handy later and it is often forgotten, causing frustration and confusion. Catalogues and information about related programs, events and educational/interpretive training and offerings are important also.

    Some art gallery curators also save painting labels. Sometimes these can be used again, especially for quick turn-around or short duration exhibits. (Be careful taking them off the walls at de-installation.)

    Have a file system with title of exhibit, its location and date. Make sure borrowed files are returned. Have a back-up, duplicate system for digital files.

    You might be amazed at how often these files com in handy.

    Kathryn Boardman
    Principal, Cherry Valley Grouop
    Adjunct Faculty, Cooperstown Graduate Program - SUNY at Oneonta
    Cooperstown NY

  • 3.  RE: Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-06-2017 08:01 AM
    Oh, and I almost forgot - save those paint and stain color brands, finishes, names, numbers and chart numbers!!

    Kathryn Boardman
    Principal, The Cherry Valley Group
    Adjunct Faculty, Cooperstown Graduate Program - SUNY at Oneonta
    Cooperstown NY

  • 4.  RE: Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-07-2017 03:28 PM
    I wholeheartedly agree with Kathryn Boardman regarding things to save when an exhibit is dismantled. Keeping research notes and perhaps early versions of the exhibit script and labels makes sense, since much of what you and your staff discovered and wrote may not make it to the may not make it into the galleries, and yet there are often nuggets of artistic and historic information therein. Keeping object labels can be helpful, not only if they can be reused, but also (sometimes) in preserving the story of the object you had put on view -- that is often a synthesis of the facts you discovered from all sources. In my last museum, we used considerable amounts of photos and graphics in our exhibitions, and we saved most of them, at least for a few years. We may not have reused more than 10% of them in some way, but that still equates to some good monetary savings.

    This does not really involve archiving, but I always liked the idea of framing one photo from each exhibit catalog or title area of the gallery. It can help interested parties (e.g., board members) understand all the good work the museum staff put forth in the past, and the great ideas that were presented to the public

    Bruce MacLeish
    Curator Emeritus, Newport Restoration Foundation
    Newport RI

  • 5.  RE: Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-08-2017 09:22 AM
    ​Yes. Archive those files!  I completely agree with both Katie and Bruce; exhibition text blocks that were deleted from or revised for the final installation may become immensely useful in the future, as might any little clue to a potential source of further information.  Make sure to include (or identify if you can) a clean copy marked "FINAL" so you know what actually ended up on the wall.  And a giant yes to saving all coding and example of paint colors.  Until you've tried to figure out which gray actually ended up on the wall (Still Life?  Foggy Morning?) in the middle of an installation, you haven't really lived.  I keep a collection of paint stirrers and write with Sharpie on the not-paint-covered-end, the name of the exhibit, the gallery, and year.  I also write this information on the paint can, and keep a list in a general "Gallery Colors" file.  Trust me; saves time and angst!

    Suzan Friedlander
    Director & Chief Curator
    Arkell Museum at Canajoharie
    Canajoharie NY

  • 6.  RE: Archiving exhibition files

    Posted 12-11-2017 09:50 AM
    Also--consider sharing your exhibition with colleagues on the website Exhibit Files: ExhibitFiles. 
    ExhibitFiles remove preview
    ExhibitFiles is an online community of people who make exhibits--a place to connect with colleagues, find out about exhibits, and share your own experiences. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Read reviews showing the best practices in museum exhibit design.
    View this on ExhibitFiles >

    NAME Board Member

    Jenny Sayre Ramberg
    Dir. Exhibit Planning & Design, Exhibits & Design
    National Aquarium
    Baltimore MD