2016, Oct 20 – Exhibits on a Shoe String Workshop


On October 20, 2016 the Heritage League of Pierce County a workshop titled “Exhibits on a Shoestring” with presenters Chris Fiala Erlich, independent exhibit curator, and Gwen Whiting, lead curator at the Washington State Historical Society.  Thirty-six attendees participated from nearly 20 different organizations to learn more about creating exhibitions.

Chris and Gwen were fantastic presenters covering many dynamic topics related to the design and installation of exhibitions for the small museum or heritage organization.  Gwen focused on the initial writing and design while Chris tackled materials and fabrication to bring concepts to life.

Gwen offered many helpful tips for the exhibit designer who may be less experienced or on a budget:

  • Exhibit panels should be relatively short in length, around 150 words and written at a 6th grade reading level
  • An online app can help you reduce the complexity of your sentences while helping guide the reading level: www.hemmingway.com
  • Create a template or design panels in standard US print sizes to reduce cost
  • Consider how color will affect the viewer and how colors can be used together to create varying effects
  • Be thoughtful of your visitor when selecting fonts! Ensure they are easy to read and large enough to easily see.
  • Use your creativity by developing themes or using cutout images

Chris focused on ingenuity in fabrication of exhibits offering the following advice:

  • Backing your exhibit labels with materials like substrate prevents curling while on display
  • For larger pieces, have a professional printer print and either mount yourself or have them if it’s within budget
  • Consider various materials before committing, like paper, vinyl, canvas, etc.
  • Incorporating audio and film can make an exhibit more dynamic. Try utilizing a CFSOUND player for audio or a screen with separate video controller like a Roku Brightsign for video.

Following the presentation, attendees walked through the Washington State History Museum’s current temporary exhibit titled A Revolution You Can Dance To: Indie Music in the Northwest. Gwen pointed out design decisions which played out through varying fabrication techniques that were budget effective.  For example, mounted panels included mounted cut out designs to add dynamic layers.  Posters from the era were photocopied and hung along a narrow portion of the exhibit to give the impression of walking through an alleyway during the time period.  A station where visitors to could sit and create their own ‘zine was installed which included an old typewriter, used magazines, staplers, and markers to add interactivity.

Resources provided by the presenters included several hand outs and references.

Look for future workshops hosted by the Heritage League of Pierce County in conjunction with our many inspiring and creative members!