Reflections: Developing the project briefs

I wanted to quickly reflect on the process of developing the project briefs from the perspective of a project “manager” rather than a participant. The process was very different because rather than focus on developing one display, we oversaw the development of all 12 displays within the (imagined) framework of an entire exhibition. Having not been involved in a similar experience before (although as a book reviews editor for a journal I am often commenting on the creative efforts of others) it was an eye opening, even challenging experience. With my lack of experience in developing an exhibition I often felt as though I did not have the “authority” to comment on the efforts of others, it seemed unfair somehow. Fortunately working with Serena in a collaborative process dispelled some of those doubts, and as the shape of the exhibition started to coalesce around some exciting themes and emerging ideas, the process began to make more and more sense.

One thing I did appreciate was the ability to have an overview of each participant’s ideas from their conception, to initial ideas after the first workshop, to more developed ideas after the second workshop, then crystallised in the project brief. I always wondered if the participants struggled a bit working on their displays in isolation (albeit with their mentors) and whether we needed a third workshop to develop the ideas around the exhibition itself. We could have then worked with the participants to place the displays around the building, and iron out any issues with position and location before the installation. Theming the displays around the building might also have worked slightly better if the participants came together a third time, there might also have been some additional collaborations in the space. It is something to bear in mind if we do it again (!) and prevent some of the unknowns of the installation process taking us by surprise.

Preparing all the materials for printing was one of the most challenging aspects of the entire exhibition for me, I felt as though there was a lot riding on getting it right – and there was! Unfortunately this was also one of the most rushed stages of the project, which led to quite a few mistakes. I am assured that this happens in museums too so this made me feel better. Again, I could have been better prepared for this stage if I had known far more about what it entailed. A third workshop where some of the practical elements were worked out – the size of the panels, images and types of materials needed – again would have been helpful.

Watching the development of the displays through the project briefs was a fascinating process and I hope it was not too onerous for the participants. It was interesting to see that some of the initial ideas laid down in the first workshop remained fairly constant throughout the project, whilst other ideas changed quite radically. In my next post I want to reflect on the installation of the exhibition but also provide some images of the exhibition itself, which will be much more interesting than my musings!

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