When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

Curatorial Perspective: Preparing for the Reopening

While the Gibbes has been under renovation, I am often asked, “What does the staff do while the museum is closed?” Behind the scenes, we are working harder than ever to reopen a stunning museum fit for the beautiful city we serve. For me, the pace has been frantic, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to focus on our collection and do some serious research and writing.

Gallery Signage discussion
Gibbes staff test signage options in the third floor galleries.

During renovation, our curatorial team has worked hard to develop new interpretive approaches to the Gibbes collection. We began by researching best practices in museum interpretation and looking to our peers for examples of effective writing. From this, we developed a list of guiding principles to keep us on track. Our goal is to engage visitors and help them to see art in new ways. We aim to tell compelling stories with clarity and brevity, with the hope that visitors will find meaningful connections with the art on view.

Gallery Texts
Writing and proofing copy for gallery text and exhibition collateral.

But drafting the text is only half the battle. From there it goes through several rounds of proofreading and then into the hands of our talented Creative Director, Erin Banks, for design. Several rounds of edits later, it is off to the printer for fabrication. In the meantime, there are many gallery installation details to work through: paint colors to select, fabric samples to review, gallery layouts to design, casework to be delivered. The list goes on and on.

Reviewing layouts for sample text panels and object labels.
Reviewing layouts for sample text panels and object labels.

Now that we are in the homestretch of the Gibbes renovation, it is exciting to see our work come to life. After years of planning and many months of research and writing, seeing words in print means we are one step closer to our goal of reopening this beautifully renovated museum. I can’t wait for that day—see you on May 28!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Published April 13, 2016

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