As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week, the Centre for Research Collections ran a joint event between Conservation, Exhibitions and Archives entitled ‘An Exhibition in a Day’. The aim of this event was to provide the participants with the basic skills required for curating and displaying an exhibition. Despite all our preparation, we entered the day with some sense of trepidation – was it even possible to create an exhibition in a day? We were certainly about to find out…
Using the fascinating and diverse archive collection from the University’s Moray House School of Education as inspiration and source material, the participants received a ‘behind-the-scenes’ experience of what goes in to creating an exhibition. This was as varied as learning how to curate, interpret, design, display and promote their own exhibition (with the aid of the CRC twitter page!), all of which was topped off by an exhibition opening in which we were able to present our day’s work. The day itself was led by Rachel Hosker (Archives Manager), Emma Smith (Exhibitions Officer) and Emma Davey (Conservation Officer), who all shared their own individual expertise and knowledge in this particular field.
The ethos behind the proposed event was to not only to demonstrate the tools and skills required in preparing for an exhibition, but also to provide an interesting and engaging way for participants to interact with the University’s rare and unique collections. The event aimed to engender a greater sense of ownership by students and staff alike of the University collections, and to encourage them to learn more about how these collections can inform or be incorporated into their own work and studies.
As one of our attendees, Heather McFarlane, writes ” An Exhibition in a Day was a fascinating insight into the collections and a great way to learn how you can make objects and displays engaging. As Education Coordinator in the School of Chemistry I often visits schools, and trainee teachers so it was great to explore the Moray House historical collections and learn about teacher training and nursery care over the last 100 years. As well as exploring the collection, it gave me the chance to think about using exhibitions more. I am always looking for new ways to engage young people and adults in science and so getting experience of putting on exhibition has given me lots of ideas of what can be done using collections and how to make appealing displays. I look at the chemistry museum in a new light now!”
Also participating in the day’s events was our very own conservation Intern, Samantha, who discusses her experience of the day. “Before deciding upon a career in conservation I was working mainly as an artist and curator concerned with the interpretation and exploration of objects with a passion for community engagement. I was thrilled to be able to discover the Moray House School of Education archival collection and help others to appreciate and handle it correctly. The collection has some wonderfully insightful information regarding education in Edinburgh during the early 20th century with so many stories waiting to be discovered. My main role of the day was to assist CRC staff and those taking part, however I became just as absorbed with the collection as our innovative learners! Because we had to sift through such a large number of interesting documents it was very difficult to know what to include within the exhibition, and how to best tell the story of the nursery school. Nevertheless by the end of the day we had all became familiar with our chosen assortment of documents and objects giving us the confidence to forge ahead with how we wanted others to view them. It was great to see so many people engaging with the collection in this way and learning from it too!”
Overall, the experience was tiring but very rewarding for everyone involved. And, as it turns out, it is possible to create an exhibition in a day…
Post by Emma Davey, Conservation Officer and Samantha Cawson, Conservation Intern