Our exhibit process starts months ahead of a scheduled opening. The initial meeting of an exhibit team reviews the theme and broad content description, and confirms dates for milestones such as public opening, label copy completion, etc.
Once the Curator has finalized artifacts and/or specimens that will be used, Collections and Conservation staff go into action. The Collections Assistant pulls the objects from storage so the Designer can start working on a layout. The Designer, Curator and department Manager (me) meet to look at the laid-out objects to discuss required mounts and any conservation concerns. The Conservators complete condition reports and start on the mounts. Usually, the Conservators make all soft mounts-that is, mounts made from foam, Coroplast or matboard- while our Productions staff makes mounts that need to be metal or Plexiglas. For the Discovery Room exhibit that just opened, Conservators Lisa May and Ellen Robinson made mounts from Coroplast and Ethafoam; Gallery Technician Wayne Switek made a painted steel mount for a large taxidermied bison head, which is quite heavy and needed the strength and rigidity of a metal mount.
To make mounts for the hide shirt and dress in the exhibit, Lisa and Ellen used Ethafoam, a brand name for extruded, closed cell polyethylene foam widely used by museums. The Ethafoam comes in 2 foot by 8 foot planks. Two inches is the thickest available, so slabs are cut roughly to size and glued together with water based contact cement.
Next time, I’ll show you some pictures of us putting the artifacts in their display cases.