Working in Collections Management: Exhibition Installation

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston 1 Comment

A staff post by Nicola Scott, Collections Management Assistant at The Hunterian.

Nicola installing objects into the case.
Installing objects into the case.

The Hunterian has an abundance of displays and sites to explore; from the Zoology Museum in the Graham Kerr Building to the newest edition of the Orientation Space at Kelvin Hall. There is, however, another, lesser known Hunterian exhibition space. Seventy miles away in the Borders of Scotland, you’ll find The Hunterian in the South.

Situated at the University’s Dumfries Campus, this exhibition space gives students and visitors a taste of what The Hunterian has to offer. The Collection Management Team recently made a trip to the campus to install a new exhibition, showcasing highlights from Harry Kelly’s extensive and influential Scottish Ceramic Collection.

There are many aspects of an exhibition installation that need to happen to ensure the safety of the objects and the desired impact of the display. This may sound exciting and glamorous but what it really means is you have to pack your objects extremely well in order not to break them then clean the case thoroughly!

The main objective of Collections Management to care for the objects. When in transit this is crucial that the objects are packed correctly and secure. We used acid free tissue to protect the ceramic jugs decorated surfaces and then cushioned them in jiffy, securing them in very useful boxes. These in turn were fastened into our van using movers straps. Ceramics are highly breakable so a smooth journey to the Dumfries Campus was essential!

A close-up of a bump dot.
A closer look at a bump dot.

When we arrived we removed the previous display from the cases and packed this for transportation. The next task was to take out the glass shelves. The case and shelves needed cleaned thoroughly.  This upkeep of the cases means that the visitors can see the decoration on the jugs in its full glory. One jug includes a portrait of Robert Burns and on the reverse a depiction of his cottage. There are also jugs that celebrate the University of Glasgow, the crest has been hand painted on one.

When the shelves are placed back in and secured we work on arranging the objects. When this is done we take in to consideration the sight – what will people see when they walk through the door? We also think about accessibility – is the display low enough that everyone can see it? The differing decoration on the front and back of the jugs meant we wanted to angle them in a way that visitors could see the majority of these details.

The cases with objects inside.
The cases with objects safely installed.

Once the objects had been placed, the last task was to secure them. As the exhibition space leads to offices and a lecture theatre there is a lot of footfall which can cause slight vibrations. Over time even minimal vibration could cause the jugs to move. We placed a few locator dots, also known as bump dots, at the base of the jugs. These clear raised rubber dots have an adhesive base that secure them to the glass shelves and ensure the jugs are kept in place.

Once all these procedures are done the Exhibitions Team installs the interpretation panels and the exhibition is complete. The only thing left to do is remember to lock the case!

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