If you have been involved in permanent exhibit design, you know how exhausting the process can be. So after working on a fisheries exhibit for nearly 2 years, I naturally stepped aside and allowed other peers to “get in on the fun” on our most recent project.
One month ago our staff held the ribbon cutting for our brand new Bluegrass Prairie exhibit. It highlights the importance of native prairies to one of our agency’s key game species, the Bobwhite Quail. It features a larger than life quail chick, a hawk with a 20 foot wingspan, and a walk-though aviary for several Quail. A month later, the exhibit is still not complete. As a matter a fact, as I type right now, a group of volunteers is helping to put some finishing touches on it. If you have had any experience with exhibit design, you know what I’m talking about. We like to refer to it as “tweaking” or “trouble shooting”.
What have I learned by “watching” from the sideline? For starters, not to simply watch! It’s important to be available and willing to help out in any way you can. Don’t be intrusive to the design team, but remember that it can be rigorous for a group of interpreters to take on a major exhibit. You should make sure that you chip in and help the team at critical points in the process. Secondly, opinions are like…well, I believe you know how that phrase ends, so I won’t go into details there! It’s important to give feed back, but for the sake of Pete, make sure it’s timely feedback. Don’t wait until the project is being installed to say, “Hey, I think it should be done this way”. That can be really annoying to team members. Trust me, that’s what I did to my coworkers. Finally, remember to have fun and relax! You’re blood pressure can spike simply because you have the greatest job in the world, don’t make it worse by adding tons of unwanted stress [Sarcasm mine]. After two years of being complete, our fisheries exhibit still has some glitches. Keep in mind that exhibit design is a long process and that it could take time to see it to completion.
Exhibit design is an incredibly creative process and it can create an enormous sense of satisfaction. When you have the opportunity to do it, make the most of it. If you have to just sit and watch, remember to not just sit on the sideline.