by Rebecca Hopman

Last month I wrote about the Rakow Research Library’s new exhibition, Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library. Curious will be open for 22 months, almost a year longer than past Library exhibitions. The longer length offers its own challenges and benefits.

Challenges

Many of you may be able to guess our biggest challenge: the recommended display period for most paper and photographic materials is three to six months. How, then, can you have a 22-month-long exhibition, especially if you want to display originals? Our solution was to rotate materials every three months. So, while our stories will remain the same for the duration of the exhibition, most cases will have new items seven times throughout the show.

We took snapshots of each rotation while working on case layouts. These photos show you the mockups of the three main layouts for our Greg Merkel/Frederick Carder case (more on that in the first blog). This is the mockup of the first layout, rotations 1-2.

Here is what the case looks like now, in rotation 1.

This decision meant selecting close to 250 items for display, around 220 of which come from the Library’s collection (the rest are glass objects from the Museum’s collection). Two factors allowed us to stop at 250.

First, we decided to use facsimiles to replace several original documents after three to six months. Second, our conservator determined that many of the exhibited books could remain on display as long as we turn their pages every three months.

Finding the number of necessary items was a challenge in itself, especially since we were focusing on the odd or curious in our collection – areas where we might only have a few items that fit the bill. The number of items, in turn, multiplied the rest of our exhibition work, including cataloging, digitization, conservation, label writing, production of graphics and facsimiles, and just general management of the materials. Every three months, a team of Museum preparators and our Associate Librarian for Collections Management will go through the exhibition and make changes, including rotating in new items or facsimiles, turning pages, and changing labels for any cases with new materials.

Benefits

While putting Curious and Curiouser together presented a unique set of challenges, it also comes with benefits. Guests can visit this exhibition seven times and see something new each time. The Library is free and open to the public, so we’re hoping visitors – especially locals – come back more than once. The changing nature of the show allows us to pitch it to local media several times, and also gives us more than one opportunity to leverage relevant holidays or seasons in our marketing (e.g. – featuring our patent for preserving the dead in glass and glass coffin trade catalogs for Halloween 2017, and our glass reliquaries in 2018).

“Method of preserving the dead,” (US748284-0) J. Karwowski, Washington, D.C.: United States Patent Office, 1903. CMGL 166896.

Glass casket catalog, American Glass Casket Company, Ada, OK: American Glass Casket Company, [n.d., 1921?]. CMGL 130378, gift of American Cut Glass Association.

Reliquary Beaker (Krautstrunk), Southern Germany or Austria, Tyrol, 1475-1525. 70.3.23

Richard Posner Marbles in Birdcage Reliquary, Richard Marquis, United States, Whidbey Island, WA, 2011. 2012.4.83

This exhibition also gives us a great opportunity to talk about preservation best practices in social media, blogs, media coverage, on tours, during programming, and in many other ways. We plan to highlight this aspect of the exhibition in order to explain to visitors how fragile paper and photographs can be. Our rotation schedule lets us display those items while limiting any long-term damage that might occur with less rigorous restrictions.

Guests can visit this exhibition seven times and see something new each time.

I’ll be interested to see how the next 21 months play out. Will the exhibition draw repeat guests and media coverage? Will it put too much pressure on our collection and staff? Will it raise awareness of the Rakow Library? The exhibition team will get together soon to reflect on the planning and implementation process, but hopefully we’ll also have a chance to meet again in February 2019 to reflect on the exhibition as a whole. In the meantime, I hope you’ll have a chance to come see Curious and Curiouser for yourselves!

Curious? Learn more about the exhibition by reading the monthly posts published on the CMoG blog and the LAIP blog, and follow us on social media at @corningmuseum.

 

This post is shared here with permission from the CMOG and the Rakow Research Library. 

 

profilepic_hopmanRebecca Hopman is the Outreach Librarian at The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass. She has worked in a number of libraries and archives since 2005 and received her MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. When she’s not at the library, you might find her embroidering, writing snail mail, or cheering on the Chicago Cubs. Follow her on tumblrextabulis.tumblr.com.

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