Staff Only: Behind Scenes Part 2
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I believe the same can be said for exhibits and the design process from its initiation to the final grand opening. Museum exhibits focus on two areas, the permanent and the temporary. We often have temporary exhibits planned months if not years in advance because it allows better scheduling and team management since exhibits require a lot of preparation and work. I think the best way to talk about it is to divide it into three main stages.
Every exhibit starts with an idea and a goal. For the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, our goal is to share knowledge through visual stories that engage the public and connects us with one another. Recently, the curatorial staff reimagined our permanent exhibit, Roots of a Nation, to include ethnographic items from all over Canada. Previously, Roots of a Nation talked about plants and its uses to Indigenous peoples. We thought that Roots of a Nation can take on a wider meaning, it can mean beginnings, the beginnings of clothes, the beginnings of baskets, and of all essential daily life items and how it has grown and prospered into what the items we recognize today. To facilitate this idea we create text panels for the exhibit and every artifact in order to explore deeper meanings and create connections between the artifacts and people.
Exhibits take a lot of hours, a lot of teamwork, and a lot of creativity to become successful. But one of the best parts, if not THE best part of building an exhibit is going through the collections to see what we have and what we can use. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology collections is currently in the process of becoming digitalized by hooking the accession file up with the object and its location on PastPerfect, the museum cataloguing software. If the item isn’t in PastPerfect we simply sift through accession records and open boxes to see what is inside. Once the objects are selected and found, their condition and location are updated in PastPerfect after which they are prepared to be carefully relocated by the curatorial staff to the exhibit. All the artifacts in the old Roots of a Nation drawers are taken out, and safely moved by staff so the case can be cleaned and prepped with inert material for the new ones to enter. After all of the artifacts are in place the didactics (text panels) are printed, drymounted (pressed to foam board), cut, and hung, then the lights are placed to better highlight the new exhibit.
Opening day, the fruits of our labor coming together for show. We double check the exhibit and make sure nothing is misplaced or forgotten. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology holds official openings for all temporary exhibits featuring delicious foods and drinks for the public. We use social media and the website to post our upcoming events such as exhibit openings. All exhibits the Museum of Ontario Archaeology creates is for the public, sharing our story with the public which in turn helps us grow and become a better institution.