Program: MSU Museum Studies
Course: Intro to Museum Studies
Exhibits lecture
Dillenburg
September 19, 2003


PERSPECTIVES OF AN EXHIBIT DEVELOPER

I) INTRO

Eugene Dillenburg
Almost 15 years' museum experience
Contact info:
gdillenbu@msu.edu
651-221-4706

Mostly Exhibit Development, some Collections, Visitor Services, Project Management

2nd VP / Membership Chair NAME (Nat'l Assn Mus Exhibition) / SPC of AAM

Kris wanted Excellence in exhibition.
But first, what ARE exhibits? Why make them?

II) OPENING - WHAT IS AN EXHIBIT?

Exhibition as a medium:

Characteristics of the exhibit medium:

III) WHY DO WE MAKE EXHIBITS?

(Not a complete list:)
A. All these, and probably more.

IV) WHO MAKES EXHIBITS?

Exhibits are so complicated, with so many agendas, it requires the cooperation of people with many different skill sets.

Kamien article - roles (pg 115)
AND MORE! Entire museum:

Writer
AV, computers
Evaluator
Collections
Registrar
Production, Mount Makers
Building Operations
Security
Maintenance
PR / Marketing
Development / Membership
Administration

So you need SPECIALISTS, who are also GENERALISTS, and can see all the different agendas and can work together - PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS - to achieve all the goals.

Furthermore: on a big project in a big museum, you may have several people in each of these roles. In a small museum and/or a small project, you may have one person filling several roles.

V) HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

That's an entire course unto itself.
Kamien article has nice summary of STRUCTURE and PROCESS
These are different for every museum; different for every exhibit.

Paul Maurer (Director of Exhibits, Science Museum of Minnesota) - "Exhibits are not like widgets. You don't just crank them out. Each one is individually hand-crafted."


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VI) HOW DO WE KNOW SUCCESS?

Far too often, we don't. There is no single, widely-accepted definition of a successful exhibit.
"Excellence is like pornography - I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

Why?
There have been several attempts. Today, look at four:
Two institutional /professional
Two visitor-focused

AAM

AAM: American Association of Museums
SPC: Standing Professional Committees: sub-committees representing professions (Curators, Educators, Exhibitors)

SPCs got together in 1994 to set standards for exhibition. Institutional POV - standards for each relevant specialty. Did the institution meet its goals. Visitors' goals are not addressed.
Also: these are STANDARDS - the minimum expected from all exhibits. Barely touch on EXCELLENCE, the exceeding of standards. They found it too thorny an issue to tackle.

NAME Strategic Plan

NAME: subcommittee for exhibition
1999: started work on a strategic plan (still unfinished). One issue addressed: excellence.
Full Disclosure: I worked on this, wrote the article.

See it as taking AAM/SPC standards, focusing SOLEY on exhibit design / development, and expanding and elaborating.

Four part grid:
(Got some flack for separating intent from product.)

Lots of detail; in summary:

Process (behind the scenes): Product (in the gallery):
Judy Rand's "Visitor's Bill of Rights"

Rand: leading consultant, developer, writer.
Developed her list around 1996.
Strictly from VISITOR p.o.v. - doesn't care about institution
Context of entire museum visit.

Excellent Judges

Another take from the VISITOR p.o.v. - (in)famous for saying "Intent Doesn't Matter."
Developed 2001-2003 by team led by Beverly Serrell.
Full disclosure: I am advisor / webmaster

Asks: did the exhibit allow / enhance visitors to achieve their goals.
Four criteria - build on one another:
Each criterion is elaborated with aspects - details.
Meant to be used - protocol.
Exhibit critique / movie critique


In the absence of widely-accepted standards, the most important thing is for professionals to talk - to come to an understanding or a vision for
And, it's always best to have something to talk about, so...

V) SLIDE SHOW

(Slides of Playing With Time, Wild Reef, and the SPAM Museum, will be posted... when I get around to it.)

(In the meantime, here are two websites that have lots of pictures of museums from around the country:)

http://www.msu.edu/~dillenbu
http://www.ahha-MuseumServices.com/museumphotos/Museums.html




This page updated September 14, 2003.



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