To see just how fast things came together for the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center exhibit, check out this time-lapse video:
Kind of makes the process look seamless and simple, doesn’t it? But exhibit installations are actually very complicated.
What you don’t see in the video is the time it takes to collect the artifacts, measure them, determine how they’re grouped, and decide where each gets placed inside its respective display case. And then you have to figure out what to do when there are too few artifacts for a case (conduct more research and purchase some related objects) or too many (argue over what gets tossed).
Once you’ve done all that, you can then determine how each artifact gets supported within its case – directly on a flat surface, lifted, stacked, or tilted in favor of the viewer. Then you need to either find or fabricate the supports. This exercise determines the Plexiglas height. (For the Wolson Collection, each of the 15 individual Plex-top heights is different.) And all of this takes place after you’ve designed the display case groupings and had the bases fabricated, never knowing how many artifacts will actually be shown. The video makes putting a 120-pound, 6-foot-tall Plexiglas cover over the nearly 7-foot-tall dress form – under a 12-foot ceiling – seem pretty easy. And we haven’t even talked about the narrative panels and touchscreens yet.
With the help of my exhibit design assistant Steven Kutsch, along with a few others, we managed to make it all come together. Thankfully, the video skips over the challenges while serving to remind us that you can’t go through this experience without developing a tremendous respect and appreciation for an exhibit’s subject.
We do hope that Miss Woldson would have approved.