This week we have had a few museum studies students and those interested in exhibition development asking us about how we put an exhibition like Handwritten together. We have also been asked whether photos of the exhibition are available – I will put a few up here.
Handwritten has been an interesting exhibition to develop and we have been working very closely with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin since April 2008. This exhibition is unusual in that no exhibition loan fees were charged. It is the Staatsbibliothek’s gift to us for their 350th birthday.
The Handwritten exhibition has built on a smaller exhibition based exclusively on the Darmstaedter collection first shown at the Staatsbibliothek. We jointly developed the content for the exhibition, adding Medieval and Music manuscripts to the original content.
The Staatsbibliothek provided us with essays for the 240 page exhibition catalogue, which were translated and adapted for an Australian audience, and Library staff wrote the text that you see in the exhibition. This involved lots of emails and conversations with the staff at the Staatsbibliothek to verify facts, collection details, manuscript details, dimensions and everything we needed to know about an item. Nat, our Director of Exhibitions, undertook two research trips to the Staatsbibliothek to view the collection material and our Registrar, Justine, also visited the Staatsbibliothek to chat to them about travel plans for the manuscripts and preservation issues.
Design wise, our Exhibition Designer, Isobel worked together with Thomas and Uli from buerozentral, the German design company who designed the exhibition for the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. Isobel, Thomas and Uli worked together to maintain the integrity of the design that appeared in Germany, but also to adapt the design to fit into our new exhibition gallery, which is a very different sized room to the one used in the Staatsbibliothek. They also needed to fit in the added Medieval and Music content. Again, because Thomas and Uli are based in Germany, a lot of work was done by email and by phone. Thomas and Uli also visited Australia in January 2011 to see our gallery and to spend a week working with Isobel on layouts and design.
Staff from the Staatsbibliothek came over from Germany to supervise the manuscripts as they travelled and to help us with installation. Uli also came over to help us with finishing touches. You can read more about the installation on a previous blog post.
Handwritten was very much a joint effort in exhibition development and has been a wonderful example of the way two institutions can work together, even over great distances, to put together an exhibition.