ECHS: Week 25 (SEGD Experience & Exhibit Design workshop)

Pope John Paul II Shrine
  • Graphics applied to the windows of the Postal Museum
  • Typical Panels in the Pope John Paul II Exhibit
  • Detail of a graphic panel
  • Detail of back-lit dimensional letters
  • A changing display in the NPR lobby

This week I dealt with logistical elements: The Collections Manager and I drafted a document to send to heads of the conservation program at Buffalo State to convince them to take on some of our objects we plan on displaying in the exhibits as projects for the students to work on. I visited North East Historical Society and measured and photographed objects we plan on using in the exhibit on local agriculture.

I then left town Wednesday to head to DC to participate in an Experience and Exhibit Design workshop hosted by SEGD. This was my first time and an SEGD program it just like AAM, it was an incredibly inspiring and informative 2 days. Thursday, we toured 3 sites where the designers and other collaborators discussed their roles and thinking and process that formed the finished installation.

The first site I visited was the Pope John Paul II Shrine, which is still under construction. The exhibit designers and interactive developers were on-site to explain their process and demonstrate elements worked. What I found interesting about this project was that the shrine was so far away from any of the Smithsonian museums. It required a 30 minute metro ride and a walk through a university campus. The designers explained how this poses challenges in terms of way finding and the importance to tell a story about the former pope that was more universal than the catholic story. Which for me, who isn’t very religious, I thought they were successful.

The second site was NPR offices where Richard Poulin gave us a tour and described their process but also illustrated how they had a hand in the design of everything, including the signage and menus for the restaurant.

The third site was the Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum. On this tour, we had the opportunity to see an early version of the media plan to see how the inter actives had evolved over 2 1/2 years. I was also excited to see that translucent graphics were applied to the windows, which are then lit at night. This is something I have been proposing for the windows in the galleries at the mansion.

The second day was devoted to panel discussions and presentations. These covered a range of topics from the use of media in exhibits (or not), the importance of a strong story for the foundation for the design of an exhibit, to what considerations you need to make for the type treatment to be used in phones, tablets and screens.

One thing that I noticed was that most of the projects had very large budgets and the exhibits were beautifully constructed with high-end materials. At the Postal Museum, the sliding vertical drawers designed to display stamps and other archival materials were custom fabricated in Italy. There were a number of very large touch-screens throughout many of the exhibits. A colleague who works at the NY public library leaned over at one point and asked about projects with a very small budget. I, myself had left Erie trying to figure out how to help a curator get a video player and vinyl cut for an small exhibit that had actually a zero dollar budget. I loved my experience at SEGD and will appreciate it for what it means to me: an opportunity to learn from the most experienced designers in the profession and to know what is possible (when money isn’t an issue). I left the workshop exhausted but inspired and excited to get back to working with my designs for the exhibits.

After spending a weekend in Philly, that is.

I traveled to Philly to spend time with friends but to also visit the recently-open meadow at Longwood Gardens. I had helped with this project and was eager to see it completed. And just like I had imagined, it was beautiful. The bridges, the shelters, signage and interpretive labels were all elegant, beautifully simple. In the Farmhouse, I was excited to see the butterfly display, I had designed, as well as the timeline wall and clamshell box I had recommended.

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