Monday, August 8, 2016

Behind the scenes: Winterthur exhibitions

Looking back - the summer of 2015 was a busy one for the exhibitions department at Winterthur.  While most of the museum staff were breathing sighs of relief following The Costumes of Downton Abbey (which closed in early January, after drawing an overwhelming amount visitors), it was crunch time in the exhibitions department.  Winterthur opened two shows the first week in September: Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, and Tiffany: The Color of Luxury.  
Tiffany Glass will be the flagship show until it closes at the end of the year.  It is a “take” show, or an exhibition curated by an outside institution, primarily using loaned objects.  The team worked closely with Lindsy Parrott, Director/Curator of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in Queens, N.Y. (, using an object list, images, and text that she provided to design the show.  
As part of my internship, Amy Marks Delaney (Associate Curator of Exhibitions), Nat Caccamo (Chief Preparator), and Raun Townsley (Exhibitions Specialist) allowed me to observe and assist with the preparation and installation of these two exhibits.  
In late July, the objects for Tiffany Glass arrived from New York.

The truck arrives!

Contracts for loan shows can have various restrictions.  I am qualified to handle objects owned by Winterthur, but for insurance purposes, handling of these objects was restricted to permanent staff, so I stood back and observed the process.  

As the truck is unloaded, Associate Registrar Katie Orr makes sure that each crate is accounted for.
The freight elevator loaded up with crates.
Everywhere you looked there were crates . . .
. . . more crates . . .
. . . and more crates still.

The objects needed to acclimate to conditions in the gallery for a couple weeks prior to installation.  We stored them behind a partition in the gallery while the rest of the space was prepared.

I painted display cases to match the wall color.

After the gallery was ready, the crates were moved to their approximate installation locations to save time during installation week.  The second week in August, we met the curator, Lindsy, and the conservator, Susan; they were a great pair to work with, which made the three day process go very smoothly!

The installation game plan.
Since I couldn’t move the crates, I helped direct them to the proper areas.
The wall brackets and risers came on the truck with the objects, and were painted to match the gallery.

After installation, I worked on dry-mounting the graphics and text panels that Amy designed. She printed the panels onto large sheets of special paper, which I then cut out and adhered to some thick board using a special adhesive paper in between.

Fresh off the printer!

In process.
The iron used to activate the adhesive.  It works like a giant panini press!
All of the small labels and panels completed, and ready for installation!

I won’t spoil the final result, so if you want to see how the exhibition turned out, you will have to visit Winterthur in person (through January 3) or online!
Jennifer Briggs  is a May 2016 graduate of the University of Delaware, with her  M.A. in American Material Culture and graduate certificate in Museum Studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment