People often think once the artworks have been selected for a gallery or museum exhibition, writing text to present alongside the paintings is the easy part. But during the process of honing and crafting a curatorial concept there have been so many conversations, so many ideas and so many potentials that go by the wayside that sometimes, writing the text at the end of the process one of the most difficult tasks.
My name is Steve Slack and I was the interpretation editor for the Global Artists exhibition. With so many people involved in the project, such a wide range of art on display from all over the world and so many potential things we could say about each one, it was my role to be an independent, but supportive, editor of the exhibition text. Sometimes it’s a case of deciding what not to say!
Working closely with the curators, I was an external voice that both challenged and supported the curatorial thinking. Back at my desk I reviewed a range of potential ideas for the text and then, again together with the curator, worked through them, panel by panel, word by word, until we agreed on the final best fit. I think we came up with some pretty good museum text for this project.
Part of the interpretation editor’s job is to play the role of audience advocate – questioning where visitors might not ‘get’ the idea we want to get across to them, but also spotting moments where I know they will really engage. I base this work on a body of audience research. We are constantly watching and talking to visitors in galleries, to see what they like, what they don’t like and where we can improve. We know that the more we can make museum text relevant to visitors’ lives, the more likely they are to engage with our collections.
I hope visitors to the Global Artists display ‘get’ the ideas we wanted to get across. If they do, I’ve done my job properly.
Steve Slack, Heritage Consultant. https://www.steveslack.co.uk