"Tricks of the Trade" about Exhibits (and Museums.)Useful information and resources for museum exhibition design and exhibit development.
Carefully consider the opinions of the non-museum professionals and people outside your project. You never know where I good idea might come from.
I also tried crowdsourcing content for my Exhibit Development & Design course this fall, and hope you gather some good ideas. I think writing skills are key to young professionals' success. So many need to strengthen their ability to write for different audiences. I had my students blog throughout the semester and guest post on mine at MuseoBlogger. It also gave them a relevant writing portfolio to share with potential employers. If you want to see their guest posts, or find their blogs, there are links at http://Museoblogger.blogspot.com. Hope you have a great semester!
"Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up."
Well, this advice may be too late for them, but mine is to get a job first (part-time, while working on the BA), and then, and only then, go to grad school. Or, since it's too late, get lots of experience while you can afford to be cheap labor. Or be independently wealthy.
One thing I always tell students when I talk to them is that we don't go into this field to get rich. In fact, we take a vow of poverty. But in exchange for that, we get the privilege and honor of working in a field that we love and that is very fulfilling and worthwhile. Bob
Be a strong communicator. There will be key stakeholders on every project that are only interested in the following stated goals:number of people and dollar bills. The burden will likely fall upon you to align their resources and influence with your altruistic vision. If that fails, flexibility and humility become important.
Before you even finish school, put in the hours at the museum. Volunteer your time working with collections, installing exhibits, being a docent, whatever they'll let you do! While I was in school, I installed exhibits for the university art and anthropology museums, and I had my first PAID freelance exhibit job before I even graduated. Don't underestimate the power of volunteer work on your CV. One more bit of advice - keep examples of everything you do, and make a portfolio of your work. It's a tremendously powerful tool in a job interview.
I'm not very far into my career, but my advice would be to volunteer with as many different organizations (big and small) as you can in as many museum areas as you can while you are in school. It was a great way for me to get contacts (which led to a paying job! Yay!), learn what I did NOT want to do, and gave me a much better idea of what my colleagues do, which means I can work better with them (and empathize with their challenges!).
Having taken this course and having worked on many programs and exhibits since, my advice would be: CUT, CUT, CUT. Our instinct is to try to cram everything that is awesome and amazing about our subject into our program or exhibit. But the most meaningful experiences (that I've witnessed or taken part in) are the ones that focus on and deeply explore just one small part of a larger story. It's hard to pick that one (okay, realistically two or three) small part (this is where formative evaluation comes in handy) but worth the tough decisions in the long run. BTW this advice holds true to newbies and oldies alike. Trust me, I'm still working on it with every project I tackle!
When one of your ideas (for an exhibit or programme) is cut or changed it's going to feel intensely personal and painful. Don't worry, it isn't meant that way, and the best response is to come back with more, better ideas.
Learn how to write concisely. Understand proper grammar and punctuation. Learn as much as you can about grant writing. Hang out in the public areas of museums and listen to the visitors talk about the exhibits. Embrace technology. Visit as many museums as you can.
Good succinct colorful writing is essential. Be a good listener. Assumptions are dangerous. Go do internships in all aspects of the field from exhibition design at design firms, fabrication,etc. in whatever attracts you. Look outside the field as one of the Achilles heals is too much inbreeding especially for ideas. Ask a lot questions. Enroll a mentor.
I agree wholeheartedly with the previous posts, and I'll add mine. Learn how exhibits get built. Visit and tour fabrication firms, or inhouse exhibit workshops. Learn about materials and why things break. Understand that just because you designed it, doesn't mean it can be built - but also that fabricators can figure out a way that it can. Work in a shop if possible.
Don't accept that low pay and volunteering are the way to get into the field - at least, that's what I'd like to tell people, that the culture changes and organizations start to recognize what time and skill are worth.
One thing my students always found difficult to understand was how resistant the "old guard" would be to ideas that seemed (to the students) self-evidently valid. So, I agree w/previous posters that the ability to communicate (particularly via text--e-mail "tone" is difficult to master) is key. But to that I would add the ability to gently coerce. Have your students work from the assumption that every idea they have will be shot down and will require a certain amount of personal marketing.
Sorry for the late reply - boy am I behind on my RSS feeds!And, of course, congrats on the teaching gig!My advice is to be creative in the job search. Yes the jobs are out there, Yes you can do exactly what you want to do, and Yes you can be paid well to do it. Achieving this just takes some footwork. Remind your students to always be looking for the next opportunity and to be open to new experiences.I have been very lucky in my 10 year career, but I know part of my luck has been to endless internet searches, trolling every job site known to man, and understanding that I have to find my career--my career won't find me. :)