Thursday, May 28, 2009

Details, Details, Details

by Katia Setti 

Amongst other projects, one of the activities I took on this week, together with Shannon Annis, was creating and mounting signs and labels for the show.  I was amazed at how precise this process was.  Up until this point, I would visit museums as an outsider, and not someone behind the scenes and I would overlook the labels or quickly glance at them, paying closer attention to the art work. Even so, I never stopped and thought about the logistics in making signs and labels.  Working behind the scenes has taught me to appreciate such details and small steps required in organizing a successful exhibit.
I would like to share the meticulous nature of this process.  The first step Shannon and I took was to use software specifically designed to create spreadsheets and labels.  We centered each sentence, chose the correct font, and the exact colors.  We then printed the results and had them approved by Don Fuller, the Media Curator.  Once they were approved, all of the signs were reprinted with any new adjustments.  We then mounted one label at a time! We first measured the label, then used the cutting board to cut the mat board, making sure to cut it slightly smaller than the paper.  This was done so that the board remained hidden beneath the paper once the two were attached.  We then used adhesive spray to attach the two, making sure to go outside to avoid the indoors.  We sprayed the mat board, then - depending on the size of the sign - we both gently laid the paper on the board, making sure to align every corner.  We finalized the attachment by patting down the surface with clean cotton gloves.  While this was all happening, we made sure none of the corners were bent and the paper remained in perfect condition.   Lastly, we taped the back of the mat board, making sure the written side was laying safely over a clean, smooth surface.  Finally, we attached the label to the wall.  We measured 60 inches from the floor, which equaled the center of the sign, then added half the height of the paper to figure out where the topmost point of the sign would sit.  Using a level, we attached the sign carefully to the wall.  This process had to be done twice because the label was placed slightly crooked (and when I say slightly, I mean approximately 1/8th of an inch).  Perfection and attention to detail were key to this whole process.   Keep in mind, this is the process of creating, mounting, and displaying just one sign!
Before this experience, I would have walked into the Contemporary Art Museum, looked at the art displayed, and completely taken for granted the "behind-the-scenes" work involved. Every aesthetic detail is extremely important and directly represents the level of prestige the institution carries.  This is a team effort. It's the sum of every member's actions that creates a successful project.  This is especially true in an institution such as CAM. 
I think the Museum at Work project will be a great way to add value to the museum in the eyes of viewers because it will give insiders a chance to share their knowledge with outside visitors.

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