New exhibition panels have recently been installed at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, based on my research into the plaster casts produced by D. Brucciani & Co. They include a general introduction, timeline and interpretive labels for six of the objects in the collection. Cumulatively they are intended to add a supplementary narrative that engages with their manufacture, authorship and function in the context of nineteenth-century material culture. In other words, to provide another ‘way in’ to the collection by revealing what the object is rather than (or in addition to) what the object is of. This was a rare opportunity to manage every stage of the process, from research and writing to design and installation. Being essentially a one-room museum with a (broadly) chronological display based on the age of the ‘original’, it was most practical to work with and around the existing arrangement of objects.
Back in June, Mark Elliot and Sarah-Jane Harknett from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Victoria Avery from the Fitzwilliam Museum, led a workshop session for the Connecting with Collections group on writing text for exhibitions, which informed my approach to this set of tasks. Although writing labels was not completely outside my experience, it was illuminating to hear from museum professionals from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives, sharing their experience of the shifting consensus on what is considered ‘good practice’ over time. We were also pointed in the direction of a particularly useful document, ‘Gallery Text at the V&A: A Ten Point Guide’, which helped me to frame and distill what had become a cumbersome amount of primary material.
I would like to thank the curator of the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Susanne Turner and Mick Cafferkey, senior illustrator at PandIS, for printing and mounting the panels with such precision.