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Evoluon 2 (crop 1)

Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968

Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968

Science and technology exhibition, Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

Evoluon 2 (crop 1)
Britain Can Make It 1 (crop 1)

Mural in the Furnished Room, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Britain Can Make It 1 (crop 1)
Taiwan 1 (crop 1)

Sketch of exhibition layout,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

Taiwan 1 (crop 1)
Britain Can Make It 2 (crop 1)

Tea Bar, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Britain Can Make It 2 (crop 1)
Taiwan 2 (crop 1)

Interior view,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

Taiwan 2 (crop 1)
Exhibition 1

Construction of exhibition space,
Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Exhibition 1
Taiwan 3 (crop 1)

Interior view,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

Taiwan 3 (crop 1)
B&BwFord

President Ford, Robert Staples, and Barbara Fahs Charles
with model of the "Levitating White House," for the Ford Museum, 1980
Staples & Charles

B&BwFord
Francisco 2 059

Sketch of Australia section,
Commonwealth Institute, London, c. 1961
UoB Design Archives

Francisco 2 059
Festival of Britain 2 (crop 1)

Fashions Hall, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Festival of Britain 2 (crop 1)
Evoluon 1 (crop 1)

Gallery view of The Senster,
Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

Evoluon 1 (crop 1)
PhotographyandtheCityinstallSI19681

Installation view, Photography and the City,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1968
Staples & Charles

PhotographyandtheCityinstallSI19681
Evoluon 3 (crop 1)

General view
Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

Evoluon 3 (crop 1)
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labels…

 

Jona Piehl
 Jona Piehl
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 32
Topic starter  

Kate, thank you, I very much enjoyed your talk and the precise discussion of something often taken for granted… (as exhibition graphic designer, I think the labels are the most challenging/most interesting piece of graphics and the one that we should talk much more about!)
I wonder whether you also consider the visual language of the labels as part of your research at all? I was struck by the typographic design of the examples of the Bell Rock Lighthouse model, and how un-label-like the older one looks, much more like a newspaper ad than a museum label…

If you don't already know about it, you might be interested in the exhibition that ran at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin last year, "Schilder einer Ausstellung" (a bit of a pun on "Bilder einer Ausstellung", "Pictures at an Exhibition") -- it charted the use of labels at the Gemäldegalerie, from the use of catalogues to interpret the artworks, to individual labels placed on the works, etc. 
https://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/labels-of-an-exhibition/

J


Kate Bowell
 Kate Bowell
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 6
 

Thank you for your question, Jona. I do consider the visual language(s) of the labels and how they change over time. Looking through the collection, it's fun to watch the designers/printers experiment with different styles and content arrangements, and interesting to note deviations from themes. Sometimes a label will really stand out because of how different its style is from those around it. That, of course, then leads to questions about why those differences are there, and those are often frustratingly difficult to answer.

I had read about the Gemäldegalerie labels but had not seen them. I'm struck by some of the similarities to ones in the NMS collection. It's interesting when museums exhibit their own past that way - an extension of the tension between narrating time and experiencing time that you talked about in your presentation. In those instances, I am always curious about motivation. Looking over the link you shared (thank you!), I get the impression that the museum wanted to be metareflective in both acknowledging its own history and using that content to ask itself and its visitors larger questions. I wonder how audiences responded.


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Jona Piehl
 Jona Piehl
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 32
Topic starter  

@kbowell Yes, what I loved about the exhibition was how an object as humble as the object label served to tell such rich stories not just about the works of art but about changes in the thinking on methods of interpretation and museum education, the purposes that labels serve, about institutional aims and ambitions (wonderful exchange of letters with the crown prince wading into the matter of labelling), about the political entanglement of the institution, and, not least, about the changing fashions of (typographic) design… Admittedly, we had the pleasure of the curator introducing the exhibition herself (and might have geeked out a bit)! 


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Timothy McNeil
 Timothy McNeil
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 9
 

Hi Kate - very much enjoyed your presentation and the potential that the history of museum object labels have to document exhibition making. Having collaborated on, designed and fabricated many object labels in my career I consider the ubiquitous object label found in museums and exhibitions to be one of the most contested and time consuming exhibit elements. It represents a microcosm where knowledge, learning and clear communication compete with each other and often clash. Experts obsess about telling the whole story, educators want the content to reach the broadest possible audience, and designers insist on visual style and clarity. 


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Kate Guy
 Kate Guy
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 16
 

Kate, I really enjoyed your presentation. It has provided me with so much food for thought in relation to my research! The interpretation team kept pointing me towards a wealth of primary material they have on labelling, but I was never entirely sure what I would or could do with it. Armed with your framework, I now feel well equipped to tackle the limitation and reap the benefits! 

I am currently very interested in the emergence of 'in-house styles' in museums. I wondered whether during your research of the NMS collection you had recognised or noted an emergence of a particular style being used within their labels? 


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Kate Bowell
 Kate Bowell
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 6
 

@tjmcneil Thank you, Tim. I love your description of labels as microcosms of complementing and clashing ideas and approaches; it's so, so true.


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Kate Bowell
 Kate Bowell
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 6
 

@kguy Thank you, Kate! It goes without saying that I would LOVE to see the primary materials the BM has on labeling (I'll be in touch). You're really fortunate to have that. I wish we had more of it at NMS, as I suspect it would help explain some of the changes and oddities I see in the label collection. You always wonder what motivations/catalysts, etc. lead to which decisions...

There are definitely evolutions of style happening within the NMS labels, both design- and content-wise. Design-wise, the museum labels (at least for Science & Technology) went through a variety of styles (borders to no borders, serif to sans serif, etc). Visually, it would be really interesting to compare the aesthetics of NMS labels with ones you're looking at, especially within the same time period. Let me know if I can send you images. Content-wise, labels moved from being largely identification and instruction (how to use something or how to make something - see the 19 steps to create a common needle...) to information-based labels and eventually interpretive ones.


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Kate Guy
 Kate Guy
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 16
 

That is so interesting! I think it would be really fascinating to compare and contrast the two nationals approach.@kbowell I will definitely keep in touch! (Hopefully, it won't be too long till I can get back into the archive).


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Corrie Roe
 Corrie Roe
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 2
 

Hi @kbowell, thank you for your thoughtful presentation. I very much agree with your evaluation of archived labels as a rich historical text. I used labels (present and archived) in my thesis research about the history of the anthropological exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History to demonstrate how the Other has been represented across the museum's 150-year history. 

I am curious if you have seen any efforts to digitize historic labels by any institutional archives or libraries? I would find this a great resource, but am not sure if others have seen the value yet.

Thank you again for your research and presentation!


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Kate Bowell
 Kate Bowell
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 6
 

Hi @corrieroe. Your research sounds fascinating! As I've been talking about my work, a lot of people tell me they'd love to digitize their label collections, or that it's on the hypothetical to-do list, but I haven't seen much actual work done in the area yet. I think you're correct that, in some cases, the value hasn't been recognized by those in positions to make it happen. In others, as is so sadly the case, the resources of money, time, and staffing may not be there. I know National Museums Scotland has toyed with the idea, but nothing concrete yet...


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Yannick Le Pape
 Yannick Le Pape
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 7
 

Dear Kate, congratulation for your so wise presentation, I guess the way you study museums is definitely a relevant one. Labels in museum are such a tense issue (not to say a controversial question), so that it's quite enlightening to focus on the informative side (for researchers much more than for museum staff) of their design and contents. Do you expect to enlarge the scope of your research to other museums?


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