(Image above from Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Insel Museum, Berlin by Mike Steele, original here)
With Blaugust underway, I’m back to looking at my current Future Learn course ‘Understanding Museums as a Site and Source for Learning.’ As I started this course after it went live, I’m rushing a little to get the three weeks worth of content worked through, since I’m keen to get this course accredited (I don’t often pay to get all my Future Learn courses accredited, as this one seems worth it.)
While the first parts of the course looked at audiences, this week looks at curation and working with artists/collaborators, in particular the choices that go into a specific exhibition and how it is presented (with text etc.)
There was a discussion as part of the course on styles of contemporary arts, leading into a section how a curator might design a contemporary art exhibition. There was a focus on the curator as a storyteller, choosing specific pieces with certain explanations and accompanying text/media to lead an audience through an exhibition in a certain way, and to a certain understanding.
An important quote from this report (which was in the added resources section.)
“Who is the 21st century curator? A scholar, storyteller, entrepreneur, fundraiser, facilitator.
The curator of the exhibition ‘Inner City’ at Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow explained their decisions when creating the exhibition – a lot of this linked back to the audience work from earlier in the course, as the exhibition is aimed at adults, but the main feature is a large scale installation to be walked around, children can engage with it on a different level, through the medium of workshops. They also created a virtual tour of the space, recognising that it might be difficult for people with accessibility issues to see all of the exhibit in the intended way.
The exhibit itself is focused on cities and communities, and though some of the work is not new, it’s original focus on city regeneration (or lack of) was something that they felt Glasgow audiences would relate to.
Text for Exhibitions
Accompanying text and media for exhibits are hugely important as they will influence how audiences react to an consider a piece. They need to be short and to the point – people will not read long text when they have come for a visual experience.
The goal shouldn’t be to tell people what they would be looking at/thinking, but to provide context and theme that will help them formulate their own thoughts on a piece, especially an artistic rather than historic piece. In art in particular, curators shouldn’t be trying to teach in a formalised sense, but to engage the audience in learning about a work.
Also, in artistic exhibitions, some artists may object to having their art ‘labelled’ if they feel it detracts from art as expression. However, art exhibitions with no labelling can easily come across as confusing or elitist to the audience and put them off – it is important to find a middle path and be creative!
- Labels should be written with enthusiasm for the topic
- Suggest, but don’t command ways for the audience to engage/interact
- Be accessible, with short, varied sentences and words
- Think how you would talk to someone about the object, then use that style to write with
- Think about the technical words that your audience may not be familiar with
The third and final part of the course looks at museums and conservation, so I’ll be getting to grips with that next week, along with other blog topics.