Often, it’s hard to quantify what it takes to keep a museum running. As the museum gets ready for a new special exhibition, we wanted to find out. So, without further ado, our great museum preparator, who keeps it all going smoothly.
Hi Jenny. You must be busy with a new special exhibition coming up. So, big question, what has to happen to install a 5,000 square foot exhibit?
Oh wow! A whole heap of things. The process starts far in advance of the exhibition opening date with contracts, layouts, delivery schedules and the like. Being organized is crucial, a schedule of what needs to happen in the special exhibition space and who will be part of the process is identified. Earth Matters is opening two weeks after Food for Thought closes, which allows for time to take down and store the art photos and moveable walls in the gallery before the semitrucks arrives over the weekend.
Can you tell us a little more about the process?
Once here, the construction of the exhibit begins over the course of a week. There are two people who are traveling with Earth Matters who will guide the process, which is necessary once you see how dismantled and well packed a large exhibit is when it arrives. There is always a bit of heavy lifting, ladders, Gaff tape and zip ties needed for an exhibit and there will most likely be something that needs figured out. The traveling exhibit installs are quite fun to be a part of and give a bit of fresh air to the museum when they arrive. I am looking forward to seeing Earth Matters.
Take us through what it’s like to be the museum preparator day in and day out. What are some of the fun things that happen?
Being able to make things, there are standard items that are regularly made like the info pucks or toughening up the trains for the train table. Then we also have one off projects like making slip covers for Funky Forest logs or the felted zoetrope bird wheel on the welcome wall. It is a great combination of projects. I also enjoy working to put together the café exhibits we put on and the large exhibition shows. One of my favorite things I have worked on is the Dia de Muertos alter space. It’s such a beautiful celebration both spiritually and visually.
Some of the technology items can be a challenge for me since I have a stronger background in maintenance. Thankfully, we have a good team of folks who are always up for showing me how to fix the myriad of problems that could arise.
And the most unexpected?
Kids are always unexpected but what I discovered is that they are paying attention to what you are doing or carrying through the gallery. They are always interested and have questions about something that is being repaired even if they are just asking their parents what I am doing. One time a little boy ran over to tell me “your wrench is cool” as I was passing through and honestly, it is a good pair of channel locks, the kid has good taste. It is constantly surprising what they notice.
You have the coolest workspace in the museum – the entire workshop! What’s the one tool you couldn’t live without?
This is actually a tough question because tools change for each task and sure, I have a favorite set of pliers, retractable knives, hex keys, paint brush even pencils. However, having the space to work and having a large work bench is amazing. A large flat surface to suit all projects is fantastic and can be a workshop anomaly, so it is something I greatly appreciate.
Thanks for the time, Jenny! Have a good week!