Writing the concept and finalising objects

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Anika, Marcin and Maisie – the Young Exhibition Producers

We are the team working with Bristol Museum & Art Gallery to produce an additional exhibition to complement Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing.

A large piece of flipchart paper covered in pictures of objects

At this stage we came back round a table and started to think about our ideas and potential themes for our exhibition.

We started by looking back at our manifesto, the Leonardo drawings and discussed the themes that interested us. Then we started to group our potential objects into themes, eliminating any objects that immediately did not interest us anymore.

Shortlisting – selecting the final objects

  • How many objects do you need to curate your show effectively? This doesn’t mean you need more if they are small objects
  • Make mind maps
  • Lay out images of your objects
  • Start grouping them in different ways – eliminate ones that don’t suit your ideas but don’t forget them
  • Trial different ideas
  • Test the concept idea against the objects
  • Eliminate/substitute/rethink the objects over
  • Go with you instincts
  • Choose what you like but also be critical and make sure they still fit in to your concept
  • Have conversations with other people such as curators and people who aren’t curators to see if they understand why something is part of your collection

Mind mapping is still great!

Mind mapping helped us to refine our themes and our object list. We were moving around the objects from one category to another, thinking about multiple different ideas, constantly asking questions until we refined our concept and realised which objects fit in and which don’t.

Writing the concept idea –  the story or aims of the exhibition

  • Look back at the manifesto and your aims
  • Think of it as a mission statement – questions, aims, themes, what you want to share through this exhibition, what you want your audience to gain
  • Start thinking of a title at this point if you haven’t already

Finalising objects – this is when you find out what is actually available

A large piece of flipchart paper with a mind mapAfter shortlisting we had to send our list to the conservators to go through each object on the list and tell us what objects are ready for exhibition and let us know about the objects that will require more time and effort.

Every object needs to go through some level of conservation to record what state it is in. The conservation stage requires a lot of time which meant some of the objects we picked couldn’t be displayed. We had to rethink which objects we previously eliminated could be used to fill the gaps.

  • Be ready for surprises
  • Be open to ideas
  • Be aware of constraints
  • Be ready for disappointment

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