Follow @bg75ioa Breaking Ground
After two stressful and exhausting weeks of installation, the Breaking Ground exhibition is finally finished and ready for its big Private View reveal!
Over the last two weeks the design elements arrived from the printing company, vinyl and light boxes were installed, and objects were carefully brought into the cases and mounted, tweaked, and tweaked once again. There were frustrations, frantic last minute re-prints, and a whole lot of creative problem solving. Oh, the things you can do with sewing pins, plastazote, double-sided tape and a little bit of ingenuity…
We have come to appreciate all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the seemingly simple task of putting artifacts into display cases. I for one will never be able to look at an exhibition the same again… I will be too distracted trying to figure out how everything is mounted to actually look at the objects or read the labels!
All in all, it has been amazing to see our 2D designs, epic object lists, and never-ending to-do lists, finally all come together in the Leventis Gallery.
We can’t wait to finally share the results of all of our hard work over the last 3 months with clients, friends, and supporters at the Private View next week! 

After two stressful and exhausting weeks of installation, the Breaking Ground exhibition is finally finished and ready for its big Private View reveal!

Over the last two weeks the design elements arrived from the printing company, vinyl and light boxes were installed, and objects were carefully brought into the cases and mounted, tweaked, and tweaked once again. There were frustrations, frantic last minute re-prints, and a whole lot of creative problem solving. Oh, the things you can do with sewing pins, plastazote, double-sided tape and a little bit of ingenuity…

We have come to appreciate all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the seemingly simple task of putting artifacts into display cases. I for one will never be able to look at an exhibition the same again… I will be too distracted trying to figure out how everything is mounted to actually look at the objects or read the labels!

All in all, it has been amazing to see our 2D designs, epic object lists, and never-ending to-do lists, finally all come together in the Leventis Gallery.

We can’t wait to finally share the results of all of our hard work over the last 3 months with clients, friends, and supporters at the Private View next week! 

Gearing up for installation…Part Deux

Armed with a trolley, a tape measure, a massive object list and boxes of mounts, the exhibition gang met up yesterday to work on our three-dimensional mock-ups. These mock-ups are crucial to the success of the exhibition, as a measurement off by even a few centimeters can dramatically alter what we can and cannot include in the final display. Below, you can see Nicole (our fabulous designer) and Natasha (Collections Manager extraordinaire) carefully measuring the distance between the edge of a mount and where the text will fit at the front of the case.

When mocking up an exhibition, it is important to consider the visitor’s perspective. The exhibition cases contain multiple shelves, so when mocking up each shelf we had to make sure that the objects were not only visible but also aesthetically pleasing from either above, at or below shoulder height. The photograph below was taken from shoulder height and shows the mock-up of nautical archaeology, as well as Caroline (fearless Project Manager) holding up a backdrop and the diving tank. Note the latex gloves - crucial when handling objects!

This photograph was taken from an elevated viewpoint and shows our “photography” case.

Finally, a photo taken from a low viewpoint:

Another important consideration in exhibition mock-ups is the safety and stability of objects once they enter the case. If an object is on a mount, the mount must be sturdy enough to withstand movement while simultaneously supporting the object to prevent it from falling and/or breaking. The mount must also not stress any potentially weak points on an object; for example, the edge of a mount should not rest directly against a crack in a pot (even if the crack has been conserved), for movement of the mount could cause damage to an already vulnerable object. The mount should also support the object in its entirety: nothing should be hanging off the edge! The photograph below shows us trying to find adjustable mounts that are stable enough for the eye idols without stressing any weak areas:

Because mounts are crucial to object well-being and visibility, we spent ages trying to find the most suitable mount for each object from amongst the wide array we were given: think Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except with perspex mounts instead of bowls of porridge!

Along with mocking up our exhibition, we were responsible for de-installing the exhibition that inhabited the cases we will be using in a few short days! During de-installation, we brought up the proofs we had ordered to test out the legibility of the text and the colour saturation of the panels. What do you think?

We definitely accomplished a lot yesterday, but there is still much work to be done! Not only do we have to finish the remaining mock-ups, we also have to make custom mounts for a few of the objects, frame our photographic scans and adjust some of the mounts we already have for increased stability and conservation reasons. Although the amount of work we have yet to complete is daunting, it is exciting to finally see our ideas coming together before our eyes!

Gearing up for installation…

In this final phase of exhibition production, the varied work of collections management really comes into play… juggling assessing conservation needs, measuring the environmental conditions of a gallery, scanning archival photos, fact checking object data and producing loan agreements whilst hashing out placement of objects on shelves so the designs can go to print! (Not to mention managing the stress of last minute changes!)

One of the most exciting jobs of late has been to consider mounting. And you wouldn’t believe how many types there are! Achieving good mounting is a balance. We want to display the most interesting and aesthetically pleasing aspects of an object whilst considering the conservation needs of the object, the story that the object is telling, both on its own and in juxtaposition with the rest of the exhibition, and the logistics of the space. 

So there’s an awful lot of mocking up and testing out to be done, such as below - to show off the excellently preserved designs on this Roman Samian ware, excavated by W F Grimes at the Mithras dig in the 1950s, these sherds are securely held in adjustable perspex mounts. Check out the blog post from a couple of weeks ago about our expedition to LAARC for more information.

Mounting Samian Ware

We’ve got a few challenges ahead (how exactly does one mount a 1950s scuba diving cylinder??) but also the opportunity to continuing learning, which is what this is all about.  

Monday 16th marks the beginning of the end: collections, content and design all merge into one as we begin the installation….. more updates to come (when we have a moment to spare!)

Interviews

Archival documents, photographs, and objects could only ever provide so much information on the Institute of Archaeology. To fill in the gaps, the staff of the Institute of Archaeology have been invaluable in providing expert information on the work done at the Institute, as well as its history. The Content team has interviewed people from the former Director David Harris to Public Archaeologist Tim Schadla Hall, and covered areas from Kathy Tubb’s conservation of the Ain Ghazal statues (http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/l/lime_plaster_statues.aspx) to the early years of the Institute.

Some of the founding figures (in the above photograph from 1956) of the Institute of Archaeology were still around when Liz Pye, Professor of Archaeological Conservation, completed her diploma in conservation in the 1960s. Read an excerpt from her interview after the jump:

Read More

Group Meetings

       At the end of January 2012, we took our first tentative steps as a team of students charged with the task of creating an exhibition and all the attachments which this entails. Since then, we have developed, progressed, and fused into an efficient and cohesive unit. There were a few twists, turns, and bumps along the way, but we learned and reassembled to confront our doubts during Group Meetings.

       Our most recent Group Meeting took place in the basement of the Institute of Archaeology last Wednesday:

During this meeting we began to sync all of our upcoming deadlines into a single Google Calendar. The considerations of design, text, evaluation, marketing, and collections all came together into an interdependent structure. As the opening of the exhibition approaches we are becoming increasingly reliant on effective communication between all members of our team. Well-organised Group Meetings help to facilitate this.

Rescue Archaeology - saved by the LAARC!

On Wednesday the Content team visited Dan Nesbitt at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), at the appropriately named Mortimer Wheeler House, to find objects for our Rescue Archaeology section. We were ushered into a huge storeroom, filled with row upon row of cardboard boxes shelved from floor to ceiling, and directed towards the boxes of unaccessioned items from the excavation carried out by W.F. ‘Peter’ Grimes at the Temple of Mithras site in 1954.

We then went through more than forty boxes of material found at the site and selected a group of twenty objects. The result is a collection that we think really gets across the range of material found at the site, from bright red Samian pottery pieces, decorated with running animal figures, to small shells, fruit stones and a fragment of a wooden writing tablet.

After filling in all the necessary paperwork and carefully boxing up the objects, we returned to the Institute of Archaeology in a cab - the London underground being deemed too risky for the transportation of such delicate objects!

We’d like to thank Dan and everyone else at the LAARC for helping us out and generously giving up their time to advise us on which objects to borrow. We hope you will like the final display when it goes up in May!

museumsandthings:

On a similar note to the previous post, I’ve just become aware of this year’s UCL MA in Museum Studies student exhibition, ‘Breaking Ground’.

They even have a Tumblr which promises to give some great insight into the behind the scenes prep for this student-led exhibition.

Tessa Wheeler’s plaque vs. display space

Tessa Wheeler's plaque at the Institute of Archaeology

One of the things that we are coming to terms with as we progress with this exhibition is that no matter how suited an exhibit might be to the story we’re trying to tell, the space available plays a crucial part in the object selection process. While we can display as many fragmented pieces of eye-idols (see post below) as we want because of their small size we have, with heavy hearts, had to resign ourselves to the fact that this plaque, magnificent as it may be, is just too big to be displayed.

The plaque does fit in the case but for visitors to be able to read the lettering we would have to leave the foreground of the case totally clear of all the other objects relating to the Institute’s first home at St. John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park. And we’ve found too many excellent objects to do that.

We were really keen to include this plaque in our display as a way of recognising the efforts of archaeologist Tessa Wheeler (1893-1936) in founding the Institute of Archaeology. As the organisational powerhouse behind her more flamboyant husband, the archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, she worked hard to find a home for their new Institute of Archaeology. Not only this, she also encouraged talented individuals to develop aspects of the Institute that were to make it unique: the support she lent her peer Ione Gedye turned the latter’s Repair Workshop into the first Conservation Lab for historical artifacts outside of a museum.

Tessa Wheeler on a dig in the early 1930s

Tessa Wheeler on a dig in the early 1930s

Tessa Wheeler died in April 1936 as a lease on the Institute’s first home at St. John’s Lodge was still being negotiated and it was to be another year before the building officially opened. It was then that this plaque to her efforts was first unveiled.

 Repainting St John's Lodge in preparation for its opening

Repainting St John's Lodge in preparation for its opening in 1937

Although we are unable to display this plaque as part of our exhibition for reasons of space we hope that the Institute will soon re-hang it to give Tessa Wheeler the prominence she deserves within the Institute that she laboured so hard to establish.

Gordon Square: What could have been.

Gordon Square has been standing firm since 1957, in structural terms at least. In terms of reputation, some might be inclined to agree with Max Mallowan who, when complaining of the reduced space for the Western Asiatic Department, also felt compelled to add that he regretted ‘to say that the external appearance of the building strikes me as hideous.’

But it didn’t have to be this way. When the IoA acquired the lease for 32-35 Gordon Square there were still four Georgian houses, in the same style as those which still surround much of the square. 

A plan was even drawn up detailing how the Institute could have fitted all of its departments into the houses as they stood, but in the end it was decided to simply demolish the houses and construct an entirely new building:


Considering the size of many lecturers’ offices even with a new building, perhaps it was for the best?

Natasha and Eleni admire their hard work

Natasha and Eleni admire their hard work