PMG Chapter 1 - Exhibitions

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Exhibition Guidelines for Photographic Materials

The chapter addresses philosophical considerations and practical applications for placing photographic material on display.

Date: July 2004
Compiler: Stephanie Watkins, 1993-2004
Initiator: Douglas Severson, 1992-1993
Contributors (Alphabetical): Catherine Ackerman, Nancy Ash, Sarah Bertalan, Jean-Louis Bigourdan, Barbara N. Brown, Ed Buffaloe, Carol Crawford, Corinne Dune, Thomas M. Edmondson, Debra Evans, Julia Fenn, Betty Fiske, Gwenola Furic, Judy Greenfield, Doris Hamburg, Marc Harnly, Pamela Hatchfield, Cathy Henderson, Nancy Heugh, Ana Hofmann, Emily Klayman Jacobson, Martin Jürgens, Nora Kennedy, Daria Keynan, Lyn Koehnline, Barbara Lemmen, Holly Maxson, Constance McCabe, John McElhone, Cecile Mear, Jennifer Jae Mentzer, Jesse Munn, Rachel Mustalish, Douglas Nishimura, Leslie Paisley, Sylvie Pénichon, Hugh Phibbs, Dr. Boris Pretzel, Dr. Chandra Reedy, Nancy Reinhold, Andrew Robb, Grant Romer, Kimberly Schenck, Douglas Severson, Tracey Shields, Angela Thompson, Sarah Wagner, Clara von Waldthausen, Dr. Mike Ware, Stephanie Watkins, Dr. Paul Whitmore, Faith Zieske, Edward Zinn.

First edition copyright: 2004. The Photographic Materials Conservation Catalog is a publication of the Photographic Materials Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The Photographic Materials Conservation Catalog is published as a convenience for the members of the Photographic Materials Group. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein.

Purpose of Exhibition Guidelines for Photographic Materials[edit | edit source]

  • Maximize the chemical and physical stability of the object while on display and during transit.
  • Minimize changes in the image, binder, and support from light exposure or other exhibition ­related factors.
  • Create aesthetic and safe displays that allow photographs to be viewed in a manner that is satisfactory to the viewer and safe for objects.
  • Facilitate informed decisions by custodians about exhibition and loan policies as applicable to photographic materials.

Factors to Consider Before Exhibition[edit | edit source]

Purpose and focus of exhibition
Identify the purpose and focus of the exhibition, such as didactic, commemorative, social or aesthetic. Identify the nature and size of the intended audience.

Type of object
Identify the process and construction (final image material binder, support) and the generation (original vintage, modern, contemporary, unique, or facsimile) of the items considered for display. A consensus on definition or use of the terms used to designate generation does not currently exist. See Orraca (1992) for further discussion.

Format of object
Identify the format (print, mount, case, album, book, panorama, oversize, etc.): Examples of large format, oversize, multimedia, or constructions may not be exclusively considered photography.

Condition of object
Determine the feasibility of exhibiting an item. Consult previous examination and condition reports and photographic documentation to assess current condition and detect changes.

Exhibition history of object
Review the previous exhibition frequency, duration, and light level exposure of items through in-house tracking systems such as computer software or library-type sign-out sheets, conservation assessment reports, registrar files, and exhibit catalogs. Use exhibition history and consultation with curators to project exhibition demands into the future. Maintain up-to ­date and detailed exhibition records.

Duration and number of venues
Determine recommendations for upcoming exhibitions by considering the exhibition history and projected future demands, along with other issues noted throughout this section. Compromises may be required to satisfy the demands of both preservation and exhibition.

Environmental conditions (all venues)
Evaluate the environmental conditions at each venue through facility reports and site visits to confirm acceptable conditions will be provided. Environmental conditions to check include, but are not limited to, light levels, temperature, relative humidity, airborne pollutants, and insect and pest mitigation. Stable consistent environmental conditions are the most important factors in protecting photographic materials for future generations.

Consequences of condition change
Identify what affect exhibition conditions might have on the photograph and the consequences of condition change on the cultural and historical record.

Use of surrogates and facsimiles
Determine whether the use of surrogates is appropriate to the exhibition goals. Preserve original materials by exhibiting duplicates for long term and permanent displays and when a generic image of a person, scene, or event is needed to illustrate a point in an exhibition.

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