Five days to execute three-weeks worth of planning. The week before we launched the Teddy Ryder online exhibit was memorable to say the least. It was one of those weeks where you’re firing on all cylinders and where each day has hard deadlines that must be met. Especially because I was so attached to the Ryder story and so personally invested in the exhibit, that week was unbelievably exciting and exhilarating. Though without proper planning, it could have easily turned into an overwhelming week of chaos.
The saving grace, then, were these—my cue cards. I alluded to them in last week’s blog post when I wrote about planning and outlining the exhibit. But these cards carried over from the planning stage to the execution stage. They kept me on track and helped me organize my thoughts.
Written on these cue cards were the names of photos or letters I wanted to include in the exhibit. Before the execution stage, I knew the general layout of the exhibit and where each letter would go, but these cue cards helped me visualize individual sections and the order I wanted for specific photos and letters.
This photo here shows the cue card layout for the first section of the exhibit:
A tip for designing exhibit content: not only is it important to divide your exhibit content into different thematic/chronological blocks (like—from the online exhibit—A Life Altered, Treatment in Toronto, and so on), but it’s important to divide those blocks into smaller beats as well. So, as you can see in the photo above, the cue cards for one block are placed in smaller sections that each tell a different part of that section of the story (Teddy as a baby, the letter from their family doctor about diagnosis, the letters between Joseph, Banting, and the Ryders, the letters between Morton and Banting, and a photo comparison to set up the next block).
This division process is incredibly helpful when writing the exhibit text that goes between each photo or letter. Will that text simply connect one artifact to the next? Or will it transition one set of artifacts to another part of the story in the same block?
After I organized the cue card order for each block, I used paper clips to keep each block separate and then lined them up. As you can see, there ended up being quite a few:
This set up made writing the exhibit text a lot easier. I would simply take the cards from the first block, pull off the paper clip, lay them out in their smaller beats, and finally take one card and write the introductory text for it. Then I’d take the next card, then the next, and so on until I finished that block. Then I’d put the paper clip back on them and do the same thing with the next block. It got me into this really nice flow, and made the work feel far more manageable. Sometimes in museum life, workers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of history, number of artifacts, or limited time they have. But taking the time (in this case, almost three weeks) to organise everything and get your bearings makes all the difference.
When I put the exhibit text and artifact scans on the website and made the final product, the cue cards played the same role. They helped me stay on track and organised.
I find it funny that blog posts like this one and last week’s—where I “debrief my experiences”—often sound like I’m going to either share crazy stories about how everything went wrong or write about some amazing and poignant way in which this whole exhibit came together. But, honestly? Everything went according to plan, everything went exactly how you’d expect, and overall, everything went great!
So, this isn’t a post about the sensational story behind the Teddy Ryder exhibit. It’s just a chance for me to reflect on the experience and remember how awesome and exciting it was! It was so memorable and meaningful to work so diligently on this one project for four weeks. People sometimes say to me: “four weeks sounds like a really tight turn around for all that work,” and they’re not entirely wrong. But it didn’t feel like a tight turn around for me, because for four weeks, I felt immersed in a collection and a story that I cherish. I got to spend one of those four weeks in an exhilarating push to the finish-line. For my first four weeks, it was all Teddy Ryder all the time, and that was incredible.
But what’s next? Well, I’ll be doing some other general museum things around Banting House (recording artifacts in our collections management system, among other tasks). Yet I’m certain that I’m not done with Teddy yet. As some of you may have read at the end of the online exhibit, we’re moving Teddy from online to on-the-wall. Don’t worry, the online exhibit will stay live! But, if you can make it, there will be an on-site version of the Teddy Ryder exhibit coming very soon.
That’s where I’m heading next at Banting House! I started this internship with Teddy, so it’s only fitting that I continue with his story for most of my remaining time. After last week’s nice transition and cool down period, I’m back in full-swing this week, starting the planning stage for this version of the exhibit, and when it’s up I hope to see some of you there!
Until next time,
If you haven’t checked out the exhibit yet or even if you just want to look again, click below and be taken right to it!