Selection & Display: Planning

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Paul Moorhouse: The first stage is to have the idea, think about why it’s interesting, and then tell colleagues, and if they are convinced, we make plans for the date, everything follows from that.
Sarah Tinsley: Well, we set up a schedule for each exhibition, which essentially works backward from the opening date, and has some very key deadlines within it. So in terms of the exhibition and its content, it’ll be about the list creation, when we need that by, when we’re going to ask for everything by. We set that out for the creator. But alongside that there are key dates in terms of the publication, if we’re doing one, the collation of material for that, which includes photographs as well, the press and marketing side of it, when their deadlines are, when we’ve had to have various meetings by and and agreed on things.
Alice Workman: There’s all the aesthetic things to take into consideration when we’re curating an exhibition, including looking at the content and the mediums of each work through to the sizes and the colour and the subject matters.
Tim Craven: Works talk to each other. There are clusters of work which relate, rather than looking at works in isolation it’s about that, and it’s about the matter of interpreting and getting the stories across.
Tanya Cooper: One of the things it’s important to do is to remember where people are coming from when they walk in  They might know nothing at all about the subject, but seems to them reasonably interesting, they might get a bit of of extra information about it. But you’ve got to start from that position of, gosh, what’s the first and most important thing to tell people, what’s the headline story that I’m going to explain about this.
Paul Moorhouse: You research it, you have to decide what’s going to go in it, you then have to get these works and borrow them, which means meeting owners, meeting other curators, other collectors, other museums and persuading them to lend the works to us.
David McNeff: We look after the stuff, the raw material, it’s almost like stock control, we look after the things. We stop think about them as historical or artistic artifacts and start thinking about them as things in frames which are fragile, heavy, dirty, can fall over, get damaged, damage other people. If one of those things were to fall on you, you’d know all about it.
Alice Workhouse: You have to think about many, many different elements, including practical aspects, such as the access, the lighting, the conditions for each space within the gallery.
Neil Wressel: We look at the logistics of how things will travel, how things can be displayed, and the sort of problems that putting two or three objects together might cause a curator.
Tim Craven: That’s one part, looking after the collection, but’s that’s the nub of museums. One part is protecting, one part is getting it out there, educating, exhibition displays, and actually there’s a problem between those two areas. So you need to tread a fine balance between those two areas. The buzz word is access.
Adam Milford: My role is to provide education resources and education session based in the museum, therefore the learning team, me and a lot of other people will be involved in deciding what kind of exhibition we will run here. So, going to a lot of meetings, discussing the kind of work which will be on display, and how we can use that with schools or colleges or university or whatever age we might be focusing on.
Sarah Tinsley: We have exhibition project management meetings every month, and they’re attended by each department in the gallery that’s working on the exhibition. It’s an opportunity colleagues on where we are with the exhibition, so that would be about the content, the title of the exhibition, anything relating to the process and where we’re at. Then each department gives an update on where they are.
Louise Briggs: We have project team meetings, people from marketing, press, exhibition production, which basically organise transport from elsewhere. Obviously there’s the learning team, and the commercial managers who look at things to stock in the shop. Basically that team is responsible for shaping the show.
David Marshall: All of those disciplines can work harmoniously, and they’re all important in running an organisation like this. If you get the mix right the offer, what the public sees, will engage.
Paul Moorhouse: If all of this comes together, you get the interesting bit, with the works on the wall, and the exhibition takes place, and it’s out in the world.
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One of the things it’s important to do is to remember where people are coming from when they walk in.

Tarnya Cooper, Curator, National Portrait Gallery

You need to make people interested – curating an exhibition is about revealing your subject in a compelling way. You are a storyteller. You need both a strong knowledge of your subject and creative flair. How you communicate your story both to your team and your target audience will determine the success of the exhibition.

What story do you want to tell?

  • What is your exhibition about? Write down the story in a paragraph.
  • What objects or pictures have you selected for the show?
  • What is the key message you want everyone to understand?
  • How will you arrange the objects or pictures in your exhibition to tell the story? Why?
  • How will you tell the story? What interpretive approaches are you considering?
  • What is the title of your exhibition?

Who do you want to see the exhibition?

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How is the exhibition relevant to them and how will you make it relevant to them?
  • How will their voice be in the exhibition?
  • What access considerations will you think about to ensure everyone can enjoy the exhibition?
  • To produce a larger print guide what size font will you use?

What are the logistics of planning an exhibition?

  • Who else needs to understand what the exhibition is about and how will you communicate this to them?
  • Who will you need help from to install the objects or paintings?
  • How will you ensure your schedule works with all the other departments involved in the exhibition?
  • What is your budget?
  • What insurance do you have to cover the exhibition objects?
  • What security issues need considering?
  • Write a schedule for de-installing the exhibition

How will you measure the success of the exhibition?

  • What methods of evaluation are you setting in place to be able to measure the success of the show?
  • How will you document the process?