Exhibits on a Shoestring

Today I had the opportunity to attend a workshop sponsored by the Historical Society of Michigan called "Fabricating Professional Exhibits for under $500." I attended wearing my Historical Society of Greater Lansing board trustee hat and hope to incorporate some of the techniques I learned in this workshop into future pop-up and traveling exhibits mounted by the HSGL.

Tamara Barnes, the Society's associate director for diversity and outreach, served as the presenter. With solid experience working at small historical societies and museums in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Tamara had some great tips to share.  These are my favorites:

  • Use hollow core doors as mounts for traveling exhibitions and temporary exhibit walls. They're light, cheap, and you can attach things to them easily.
  • Have large graphics printed professionally on adhesive vinyl.
  • To add depth to a photo display, cut out an image from the foreground of a photo mounted on foam core, and superimpose it on top of the full image mounted on foam core. (That's what's going on with the image of the boxer, in case you can't tell from my poor meta-photo.)
  • Museum wax is a great reusable adhesive!
  • So is velcro!
  • Use vinyl letters for a special touch to jazz up a simple exhibit.
  • Use composite board to make stands for large artifacts.
  • Use pine stanchions to hold exhibit text or barrier ropes.
  • Display multiple digital images with a digital picture frame or a small flat-screen TV.
  • Make everything blend together with a good coat of paint.
  • If you're able to splurge, splurge on a good color laser jet printer, a scroll saw, a mat board cutter, and a dry mount machine.
My biggest takeaways from the presentation were, thus:  light, cheap, and adhesive, are the way to go!