Exhibition development 

Te Mäori exhibition circa 1986, Brake, Brian (1927–1988), New Zealand. Gift of Mr Raymond Wai-Man Lau, 2001. Te Papa
Te Mäori exhibition circa 1986, Brake, Brian (1927–1988), New Zealand. Gift of Mr Raymond Wai-Man Lau, 2001. Te Papa

Create and set up exhibitions

Creating an exhibition at a museum or gallery requires a lot of time. Come up with a clear design for your exhibition before any installation actually begins. Work out the resources you will need.

Make sure to arrange your displays in a logical way that makes sense to visitors. Keep in mind that there may be large visiting groups, including school groups, so be sure to allow enough space between displays for people to move around easily.

Exhibitions at Your Place - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 1.9MB)

How to write an exhibition proposal (PDF, 316kB)

Creating a small exhibition

Set up displays on a limited budget

Setting up displays can get expensive. Recycle materials from past exhibitions and seek donations from other museums or businesses in the area for things like display cases, cabinets, mounting boards or seating.

Low Cost Exhibition Techniques - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 1.75MB)

Text labels

It is important to really know who your audience is and what sort of background they come from. Is this exhibition targeted towards school children, or perhaps a more mature audience? Your label text needs to speak to people in a way that makes sense to them and makes them feel comfortable. Visitors don’t want to read long, complex labels: a successful label will be concise, interesting, and often tell the story of the object rather than simply describe it!

To engage with the audience, use language with which they are familiar. It is better to be more conversational (even humorous) than overly formal. Avoid too much jargon and complicated language, but be careful not to patronise or talk down to your audience. If you must use jargon, you may need to explain it. International visitors will be unfamiliar with many common New Zealand words and expressions, so you may need to avoid, explain, or gloss them.

Brevity is vital. Don’t have sentences over 30 words in length. Try to break your label up into short paragraphs. At Te Papa, the standard text panel is 100 words. It is usually better for a label to make a single point clearly than to try to cram in multiple ideas.

Labels need to be placed in locations that are accessible to everyone. Use a large font that reads easily. Many New Zealand museums print their text labels in both English and te reo Māori. Labels in multiple languages create bigger word counts, so it is important to keep the text as brief as possible.

Read more about how to write text and communicate to your audience in the following He Rauemi Resource Guides:

Know Your Visitors - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 1.74MB)

Writing Effective Interpretive Text - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 864kB)

Writing an exhibition label brief (DOC, 53kB)

Tips for making effective labels (PDF, 923kB)

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