Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On the Road with Jennifer Roberts

Jennifer Roberts, assistant registrar and mah jongg maven, has written today’s blog describing what is actually involved when we travel an exhibition. Who knew?

Our temporary exhibitions are quickly becoming avid travelers. Traveling an exhibition is a great opportunity to share the stories we tell with audiences across the country. Months of planning and organizing go into preparing an exhibition to travel. The Registrar’s Office oversees many of the tasks including preparing contracts, arranging shipments, and providing detailed installation instructions, all before the exhibit arrives at the next venue. Once the necessary arrangements are made, we head off to the hosting venue to help with the installation.

I recently spent three days in Orangeburg, South Carolina installing Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow at the IP Stanback Museum and Planetarium on the campus of South Carolina State University. Having worked on this particular exhibition since its original installation, I was familiar with all the necessary components, save one: the gallery itself. Each venue has a unique gallery space, meaning that the layout varies from place to place. While these changes present new challenges, they also mean that the exhibit will take on a refreshing transformation in each new space. At the Stanback, the staff had already installed the graphics and empty artifact cases according to their specific floor plan. After answering a few technical questions (and having lunch!) I was free to begin condition reporting, one of my primary responsibilities when traveling with an exhibition. That and acting as a resource for the venue’s staff.

Condition reporting requires examining the artifacts closely and comparing their current condition to the recorded condition from the previous venue to determine if there have been any changes. It can be a long and detailed process, but condition reporting is an important step when installing any exhibition. Once the condition reports were complete, we placed the artifacts on their specially made mounts and placed the artifacts in the cases. After taking a few gallery photos and saying goodbye to my colleagues, I returned to New York confident that the exhibit would be a success in its new location.

Editor’s note: If you’re in South Carolina, see Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow through Jan. 3, 2011. It will be at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie beginning February 3.

Photo by Jennifer Roberts.

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