Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Thoughts on putting together an exhibition

Part of the 'Profiting from Powering the World' involves digitising images and putting them together for a travelling exhibition to promote the catalogued collections. It will be made up of 8 pull up banners and will be launched at the workshop on 27th January.

I'm now at the crucial stage of finalising my choices of images and text to send to Waters Creative to produce the final panels. This is my first dabble into producing an exhibition, and I have found it mostly interesting, but sometimes frustrating. I think the nature of this project means I've had to take some unique things into consideration:

Collaborative working: The project is an Archives and Records Wales project involving 11 different collections from 7 different archive services across Wales. I catalogued 6 of the collections so had a reasonable idea of the highlights. I had no idea what the other collections consisted of, and very little time to find out. Robert Evans, who catalogued the North Wales collections, helpfully provided some assistance with this. It meant communicating with archive services with different resources and priorities, arranging visits, becoming a rather demanding reader, requesting lots of scanning, and spending a silly amount of time on trains. Despite the odd lost email, all the services involved were really helpful. It also meant I got to see some lovely places in North Wales.

Design: I found the design work tricky at first. There are so many collections, from a number of different industries (coal, copper, engineering, slate, lager etc),that no particular colours or themes immediately stood out. It took an age to settle on colours and layout. The intention is that it all ties together as a full exhibition, but that each banner can also stand alone. Additionally, being a Welsh project, translation is a large consideration.

Archives: As for the records themselves, I was initially a little concerned about how suitable for an exhibition these collections were. I knew they had great research potential, but these are records produced by heavy industries. Some of them are literally still covered in coal dust. They don't contain a lot of attractive marketing material, the type that you might find in other retail or banking archives, and which lend themselves to exhibitions.  However, having now looked through all the collections I've been pleasantly surprised at the range of material available. My aim was to find a good mixture, combining the aesthetically pleasing with the more informative records.

Now it's coming up to the Christmas break I have a little breather to reflect on the new skills I've gained during this process and the lessons I've learnt (so many!). Hopefully the final product will do the collections, the businesses, and the communities they affected, proud.

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