Display In Focus: Love & Desire – Part 2

Jonathan again, here to conclude on the construction of the Love & Desire display.

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Labels had been missing when the objects for the display were first installed, so getting them in was the top priority afterward. Label writing is also one of the strangest, trickiest aspects of any museum project; all your ideas as a curator and educator have to be condensed down into a few lines that should easily readable to your audience. For example: Right now I’m writing with a presumption that readers will be at least moderately literate with at least some enthusiasm for either museum curation or LGBTQ+ subjects. My sentences are long and complex, at times with multiple subjects linked through uncertain uses of conjunction and punctuation. These were some of the chief complaints I received about my draft labels, so I had to rush to fix them.

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How the objects had been previously arranged affected how the labels themselves were written up, which in then affected how I arranged the objects. Strange loop, no? One may recall from the previous blog post that originally, the label holders had been placed together, and Satan Took a Bride was placed near the top. The display case was packed, but when the labels were slipped in, it became apparent that it made for a bit of an unclear reading. Plus, given the sentiment by others that perhaps I had one book too many, and the choice was made to remove Heart, Have You No Wisdom? and put the Mills & Boon label in its place. Thus I had a square around a square, the label surrounded by its subject. This also freed up enough space for the Violet Winspear label to be placed in the centre but still be placed clearly closer to its own subject matter and material.

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Unfortunately at the time, there simply weren’t enough large label holders for my purposes – worse still my smaller labels were too large for small label holders. This was not impossible to revise through careful editing of sentences, and removing unnecessary spacing, though I could have also considered the ages old trick of editing font size. I mean, I didn’t, but it was still a possible solution, and the others that I did use managed to free up enough of the large holders.

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One of the peculiar concerns that nagged me throughout the arrangement of the display was how I would intend people to move through it, and how they would be introduced. Strictly speaking there are two methods of entry into the Staircase Hall that are technically accessible to the public, but the one that would have been most preferable to my aims – emerging by the painting of Pandora at the start – was also the least likely to be used as it’s not the main entrance and intended for staff access. However, the route from the entrance lets one meet the latter half of the material in terms of chronology first, thus I was going to have to accept a probable on compromise the flow of the ‘narrative’ as such – going from the late 19th century to the late 20th century – owing to the space syntax of the room. At the very least though, I could position our exhibition sign on an easel to be the first thing one saw if they looked into the room (the entrance being in a right-hand corner), which is what I did.

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It was slowly but surely all coming together, with only one particular complication left. The thing for which I was most enthused, both for how silly it is but also how peculiar the questions it raises are. In the upper left, one can see the Museum’s painting of ‘Pandora’, depicting the mythological woman from greek myth in the moments prior to her creation. Since I was going for a look into things such as sexuality and identity are depicted, it seemed like a wasted opportunity if I did not somehow make use of the naked woman hung on the wall. There are however a lot of concerns that go into any kind of tampering with such a piece, namely about potential harm. The painting itself is behind glass, but tape could potentially leave a smear or we might scratch it in installation, neither of which is a good thing to do in general, nevermind when you’re a student. Fortunately, a solution was devised whereby our little addition would be over the painting, but not strictly on it, thus sparing it from any harm.

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So it was that Pandora came to be censored, but only above the waist – that’s where the artist actually put in the details after all. Never mind that her crotch is still exposed, and there’s some men hard at work in the back in seemingly nothing at all. If the standard by which Pandora has been covered up should seem strange, good: That’s the point.

 

That is Love & Desire, and I hope its creation has proven interesting to read about. Thanks for your time,

Jonathan

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