Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Checking Up On The Exhibit Doctor

When we threw open the Exhibit Doctor's "office" on this blog last month, a familiar exhibit "ailment" was brought up by Mary Jane Taylor, Research and Evaluation Manager at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia:

"In twenty years as a museum professional, and longer as a visitor, I've never seen anyone come up with an attractive, cheap, durable and easy-to-use system of having a flip book of text or images available in an exhibit.  Solutions range from the bulky and impossible to use (thick mountings for pages with heavy-duty grommets and rings) to ugly, disposable three-ring binders from Staples.

"Notebooks" of source material, photographs, and diagrams are a basic in all kinds of museums, so it seems like a problem that somebody should be able to solve!"

I'm happy to report that I received some excellent suggestions regarding Mary Jane's query from ExhibiTricks readers.

Several folks suggested high-tech solutions such as the wonderful Spin Browser from Technofrolics  --- which would completely eliminate dog-eared pages!  (Is there an iPad app for this sort of museum application?)

But I think something gets lost when you replace tactile objects, especially books, ledgers, and journals with digital facsimiles.  It's a bit like "pictures under glass" to borrow a phrase from Bret Victor's excellent rant on the future of interaction design.  But I digress.

In the low-tech realm, I immediately thought of the clever "page and rod" design first developed by Jay Erickson from the Minnesota Historical Society.  Basically you laminate each label/document page and then carefully clear tape one page edge to a 1/8-inch stainless welding rod, cut to size.  The collection of rod/page assemblies then are captured in wooden (or plastic) "end caps" with large cylindrical depressions drilled into them.  I recently saw some "flip pages" using this method in an exhibition at the Connecticut Historical Society (pictured below.)

Flipping pages

Close up of one "end cap"

Ken Dickson offered up a few clever industrial-type solutions to consider.  The first is a rotating, changeable system called the SHERPA Carousel

and the second, the Master View system

It looks like both of these items are also available at your friendly neighborhood office supply store, so go take a look.  Thanks for the tip, Ken!

Lastly, Stewart Bailey from Intu Design was kind enough to share a design (pictured below) that's works well for his clients:

It’s just pages printed onto white reinforced vinyl banner material, and bound at the spine onto a support so that it doesn’t walk away. I generally use a direct UV print onto the vinyl, which allows double-sided printing. The books feel quite nice in the hand. There’s none of the horrible U-bolt and laminated card stock with grommets, or sintra panels that are so frustrating to use. Pages are as easily changed as with U-bolts. The reinforced vinyl is really tough, and can stand up to heavy use well.

Nice work Stewart!  I wonder if the "pages" could be printed onto Tyvek or EcoPlast as a vinyl substitute?

UPDATE: Scott Clarke was kind enough to recently send an email to tell me about his VarroBook system (an example is pictured below.)  Check out the VarroBook website for lots more information!

Have your own exhibit issue you'd like to discuss with the Exhibit Doctor?  Feel free to email me directly, or leave a message in the "Comments" section below.

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