Curating an Exhibit

While we enter the final 6 weeks of course, and begin racing full speed ahead, I thought I should reflect on our final project a bit more. More specifically, I wanted to take you all on a journey which I call Curating an Exhibit. Luckily for us, we have a physical and digital space. Throughout this blog posting I encourage you to reflect critically on the spaces that we have and think about what aspects of this we can include within our exhibits.


When curating an exhibit there are many questions that we must ask ourselves. Lynsay did an amazing job highlighting these during our conversation today regarding a design brief.

Who is our audience?

What do we want them to know (when they come to the exhibit and visit our website)?

How can we engage them?

What purpose to they have (and reason) to want to visit our website?

What items will make them want to come to the exhibit?

Who are our stakeholders and how do they influence our exhibits?

Similar to writing a paper, as curators we have an intention which we can call a thesis. This thesis is one that is persistent throughout the entire exhibit. It is an underlying theme or message that guides and influences our work. This doesn’t have to a repeated phrase or even mentioned within the exhibit itself but we as the curators must remember this within our work. This thesis will inspire not only us, but the visitors as well. This can be related to Marc’s question of “how do we reach a target audience that is beyond the notion of ‘people like us’’? If we identify our target audience, we can then identify those who exist outside of it? Why would those people be interested in our exhibit, and how can we intentionally build those ideas into our framework?

In order to truly be successful with this, we need cohesion across all the teams. My role as the project manager to assist with this cohesion. If you are waiting for something and the other team has past the deadline, my job is to help the team and you while we waiting. We must be transparent and trust each other in the different areas.

Here are the list of dates and deadlines that we discussed in class, with a few extras and adjustments. Remember if you are unable to complete a task by the deadline, do not worry! Just communicate and let everyone know.

February 28: Finalized Exhibit Layout (Hard deadline, March 2)

March 1: Design Brief for Website (After reviewing exhibit layout) (Hard deadline, March 3)

March 3: QR Codes (Information on how to make them gathered)

March 5: List of all content required for website (Hard deadline, March 8)

March 8: 3 poster designs created and ready to be printed (Hard deadline, March 10)

March 20: Website Beta ready to launch (Hard deadline, March 25)

March 21: Pamphlet created (based on exhibit and website) (Hard deadline, March 26)

March 22: Exhibit set-up (Hard deadline based on change of exhibition dates)

I will be adding more deadlines to Trello based on the tasks that everyone is completing. Remember if you are unsure please ask, and it is better to overshare than underscore in a group project!

Online Exhibition Readings

I hope everyone has enjoyed the mini break we’ve had, whether you got to soak up the sun in a warmer destination or if you were more like me and stuck in the snow with school work, either way I hope everyone is feeling slightly more relaxed after a week off. The readings this week were like a breath of fresh air for me; I am not a technical person, and the previous readings we’ve had have been on the “techy” side and I’ve found them difficult to read. This week’s readings, however, perfectly ties in to our final project that the class has been working on. Kathy Fox’s The Design Brief focuses on giving the reader on what to do and what not to do when beginning a large project. It offers the idea of what exactly to do, before the project even really begins, meaning “all the people involved with the project come together before the project goes outside the institution and decide the organizational ambitions of the project, along with its values and ethos”. The Design Brief will be the structure for our brainstorming in class Monday. The other readings are focused mainly on public history; which is more or less engaging the public with history, such as explained in Public History and Liberal Learning: Making the Case for the Undergraduate Practicum Experience by Elizabeth Belanger where she has her students engage directly with a community and their history. Andrew Dunning’s review of Jeffrey DeWitt’s on-running project for transcribing Petrus Plaoul Sentences and making them more widely accessible is very relatable to what our class did last semester with transcribing some of Carleton’s medieval manuscripts (not to his remarkable scale though). The work the Harry Ransom Center has done with attempting to transcribe or identify partial manuscripts was quite wonderful and relevant to our whole course – most of the manuscripts we worked on were only fragments.

Here are some questions to ponder over this weekend before our class:

  1. Do you think the Design Brief will help us with our project? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think are the strengths/weaknesses of a physical exhibit? An online exhibit?
  3. What are some of the obstacles of publishing work online to be seen and commented on? (see Andrew Dunning’s review and the work done by the Harry Ransom Center)

Enjoy the last two days of reading week!

Keys to Success

Having (almost) complete four years of university I marvel at the fact that I have gone so long without a professor in any of my classes assigning a group project. This has meant that, for most of my university career, the only assessments I have submitted were individually-based essays, exams and the rare solo presentation. Due to this past experience I will admit that I came to this group project a little nervous but it is actually a refreshing change of pace. With this context in mind I would now like to outline what I have learned thus far as ‘Team Leader’ for the exhibit portion of this project.

The first key takeaway I gathered concerns the importance of scheduling. This means setting a clear deadline for when each team member has to finish a component of the project. The nature of the exhibit means that it is not something we can piece together the week before our launch date—the mere thought of this procrastination makes my hair stand on edge—rather it is best to break the project into little tasks that reduce this endeavour to manageable stages. As the type of person who needs to assign herself deadlines for completing work it was not too much trouble, in consultation with my teammates, to figure out a rough timeline for the exhibit. For example, on March 1st I hope our team will have come up with the content we would like to discuss in the exhibit as well as reach a firm consensus on all the pieces and objects that will go into the display case. Though this may sound like a large goal hopefully the upcoming reading week will provide enough time to accomplish this objective.

Another takeaway deals with the importance of communication across the various teams involved in this project. Not only it is crucial that the exhibit team members communicate amongst themselves but we should also keep in touch with the publicity and website teams to know what they have planned. As this exhibit is kind of a ‘spotlight on’ the manuscripts scholars, students and the general public can find on the website it is vital that we ensure our content does not overlap too much with this team. Also, as we would like people to actually see the finished product (the exhibit) it is crucial to maintain conversation with the publicity team. How can we expect the publicity team to get people excited for the exhibit if we keep all our information about the display to ourselves? Communication between every member in the Medieval Book team is vital for success!

As a conclusion to this post I just want to take a moment to appreciate the research and work everyone put into their Omeka entries. In selecting manuscripts for this exhibit my teammates and I are able to draw on the information about the folios provided by our classmates earlier in the course. One of the benefits to this group project has been the ability to watch as the information learned in the first term contributes to this term’s work!

Annotating the Web

This week in class we discussed the ways that annotations can be used to bring new aspects to websites, articles and digitized material to improve understanding these items.  We mainly focused on the use of annotations in digitized manuscripts especially on projects by the British Library and Library and Archives Canada, Spanish flu records, where these organizations sought for broadening the transcriptions of these documents by allowing the general public to leave annotations.  The discussion included the potential danger and advantages that allowing public annotations on documents may cause and the ways that the annotations can help democratize the process of sharing information as they are by nature publicly available and visible if one breaks the barrier to entry on entering the world of annotations.  one key issue that we discussed regarding annotations was the lack of a set series of standards that could govern or give uniformity and consistency among the varying programs that allow for annotation which causes a definite barrier to entry for people to begin annotating documents.  The readings provided also discussed the reluctance of institutions to allow for such systems to be used publicly and then related back to there own systems as well as the reluctance of scholars to embrace the use of annotations among availability to the public.  We also discussed the embracing of annotations among institution such as Harvard university and the exciting prospects that can stem from wider spread of the adoption and the future that it may hold.


Field Trip!

This week we got to go on a field trip to the Preservation Centre (National Archives and Library of Canada) in Gatineau, Quebec. It certainly was a good way to start off the week and not to mention, actually have a fun Monday! The building itself is in the middle-of-nowhere Gatineau, however the architecture of the building is pretty cool; the architect is from the Prairies so he integrated the Prairies lifestyle into the building. For example, the building inside contains things that look like oil rigs, kitchens that look like silos from the outside, and the office area on the top floor looks like a little Prairie town (barns, steel huts, silos, you name it!). The building and its architecture is already cool enough… and what they have inside is even better.

There are three levels of “vaults” which contain all the archives. I unfortunately did not take notes while on the tour, however I distinctly remember our tour guide mentioning that mostly everything they have (archives, photographs, paintings) was in the millions (if I recall correctly, there are 22 million books!). Here is their website with all the numbers and more information:

The amount of detail and thought that went into creating this building and its functions in order to protect the archives is mind blowing. The fire system is extremely advanced and it will detect where the fire is and only spray water on that specific area; the floors are even slightly tilted so that the water will run down to a pipe in the wall that will drain the water. The rooms also have to be kept at a certain temperature and humidity in order to preserve the items in the vaults. For example, most rooms were kept at a 18°C with 25%-35% humidity. There was one room, however, that contained negatives and nitrogen photos so that the room had to be kept at a freezing temperature of -18°C.

During the tour we were shown into some of the vaults (thankfully not the -18°C one), and my personal favourite was the vault that contained the paintings. I could not believe the amount of paintings nor how amazing they were! The oldest painting in their possession is from the 1690s. Another great thing is that most of their collection is digitized; here is the link to the search bar: We were also shown the digitization lab – where all the magic happens! The machines and scanners they have are unbelievable; there is always an influx of projects being done to digitize their collections. They even have a machine (robot?) that turns the pages of the book while taking pictures of every page.

This was truly a great experience and I am so glad that our professor organized it for us, it was great! I encourage anyone who likes/loves this kind of thing to book a tour at the Preservation Centre or even the one on Wellington Street in Ottawa – it is definitely worth the time!

This website/blog now also has an Instagram: medieval_book. We’ll be posting some pictures of the tour on our Instagram story this week so take a look if you want to see some cool stuff!