The creation of an exhibit: building the panel for the centre of the Women of the Sooke Region exhibit out of wire and PVC pipe.

CURATOR’S CORNER: The making of a museum exhibit

Exhibits require much planning

Montana Stanley | Contributed

We recently decided on exhibit topics for the next two years.

The biggest exhibit of the year is the annual summer exhibit. Topics and budgets are usually decided by the fall, and that starts the exhibit process.

Exhibits require much planning. Once a concept is decided, and a budget is set, we begin brainstorming and research. We then generate an artifact list, and look to the community for donations or loans relating to the topic. Community contributions are very important in exhibits. Around this time we interview participants to include community perspectives in the exhibit. We will also consult with experts on the topic.

By fall a tangible storyline and structure for the exhibit has been formed, and we build a production schedule. Soon after, we begin writing exhibit text, captions and credits and select photos to accompany text.

The spring is a busy time for the editing and review of exhibit content. Content is vetted for accuracy and readability. Research notes are reworked to tell a story. If an interactive, tactile or media component is included in the exhibit, we note the technical or viewing requirements, and it is created at this stage.

RELATED: Sooke museum’s summer exhibition celebrates women

Once content is finalized, we draw multiple to-scale display options. Artifact safety, security and conservation are considered in these drawings. If valuable or fragile objects cannot be displayed securely, replicas are made.

Now for the fun part: design! .

Ideas that have been brewing throughout the year are taking shape at this point, with colours being selected, and panels created in a design software.

After many design planning sessions, we are busy in the workshop building showcase structures. This can take a few months depending on what our team has dreamed up.

Not all ideas come to fruition of course, and not all artifacts may fit in the display. Once a logo has been designed, we plan events relating to the exhibit, and release any media advertising.

We next prepare the exhibit space: painting, cleaning floors and making sure we have all the supplies we need to begin installation. A few days before the exhibit opens, volunteers and staff put the finishing touches on the exhibit.

The exhibit debuts on the fourth Sunday of June at our annual open house and salmon BBQ barbecue. This event is a highlight of the year, and includes tours of other permanent exhibits on the property.

Our 2020 summer exhibit will be on the history of art in the region. If you have any input or artifacts relating to next year’s exhibit, please e-mail me at

Happy new year!


Montana Stanley is the collections and exhibits manager of the Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Centre.

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