Behind the Scenes: Exhibit Installation

By Erica Hague

Exhibits are fun (and a lot of work). Chances are that if you’ve ever gone by an exhibit as it's being set up, there's been a hive of activity. I’m here today to take you behind the scenes of our most recent install, Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the American Poster!, which opened May 20th and will be on display through December 3rd.

First, everything has to be prepped. Paint is smelly, and the off-gassing of paint can be damaging to the artifacts, so we like to get all the walls painted and the gallery aired before moving anything up in the space. In the case of Uncle Sam, the gallery got a serious makeover, with the grey walls going white and red. If you were in this gallery before, you’ll remember it being a rather dark grey/green.

Second, we get all the items prepped, mounted, framed, and ready to go up. Here’s the cape that we flat mounted for the exhibit.

And here’s the curator, Kevin, and I bringing in the framed posters. They all get wrapped in brown paper at the framers for shipping to give them a bit of protection when en route.

So we had to unwrap them all once they arrived to see where they went!

Third, we bring the items up and start placing them.

For this exhibit it took about a day for the 40+ posters to be hung up, and another day to place the rest of the objects.

That’s level! Check!

Fourth, we print, mount, and ….

… cut and place the labels as well as …

… other graphics. This is usually going on while the objects are being readied and installed.

Fifth, we put the objects in their cases, secure them, and double check the space for labels.

We wear gloves while doing this to protect the artifacts from the oils in our skin (and our skin from the items themselves!).

Fifth, we adjust the light to make sure that it isn’t too bright. Light is one of the major causes of damage to archival items, so it’s important to get it low enough that the items are protected, but bright enough that people can see the objects without issues.

Finally, we do a final walkthrough to make sure all the items are secure, well lit, and clean. It’s ready for the public to enjoy!

Then we sit back and admire our work.

All in all this exhibit had a lot of helpers to make it come together.

Kevin, Gordon, Michael, Mike, Don, Jeremey, Dan, Joanna, Bess, Ryan, and myself all worked to install the exhibit in the gallery. We had lots of help from the graphics manufacturers, painters, security staff, and housekeeping as well to get everything prepped ahead of time and sparkling after install.

Hope you enjoy the fruits of our labors!

Erica Hauge is our Manager of Collections here at Atlanta History Center, aka she gets to touch old stuff - with gloves of course. She also works diligently to preserve our collections and share them with the community.

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