Monday, March 24, 2014
Art of the Didactic Panel
One of toughest jobs for an exhibit curator (even one who is a seasoned writer) is to compose didactic panels that orient museum-goers to a particular topic or theme. Why? Because they must distill complicated chronologies, concepts and theories into a meaningful and easy-to-understand paragraph or two. One hallmark of the curatorial amateur is an exhibit gallery overwhelmed by text. Don't try to transfer an entire book onto a wall. Museum-goers will take one look at your book-on-the-wall and just move on. Yet without core information, the imagery and objects in your exhibit will lack valuable contextualization that relates them to the larger exhibit concept. When you write your team's primary didactic panel, remember that we are focused on the meeting of worlds--two of those being the worlds of sentiment and of science. Stay focused on those themes as you write. And remember that less is more. Here are two didactic panels from the Spurlock Museum. Notice that brevity doesn't translate into lack of important content.