Behind the Scenes of Multiple Choice: from Sample to Product

Exhibitions are hard work. At Cooper-Hewitt they are planned years in advance and involve several departments cooperating towards a common goal of creating the best exhibition possible. Once the research is completed, the objects chosen, the didactic panels and brochure text written, and the exhibition design layout completed, there is still one very important step that needs to occur: installation. The installation of an exhibition is an incredibly exciting time, when one gets a first glimpse of the realization of the curator’s vision. Players in the exhibition installation include the curators, conservators, registrars, and most importantly, the exhibition crew. The exhibition production team is a group of talented, hardworking individuals (often artists themselves) who strive to achieve the perfect balance of doing their job well in the short amount of time allotted. Constructing platforms and case decks, painting walls, creating mounts, applying graphics, cleaning cases – every task is critical to the successful installation of an exhibition.

Over the past few weeks I photographed several steps of the installation with the goal of giving you a glimpse of the enormous dedication and hard work involved in mounting this exhibition. We hope that you enjoy this small taste of the behind-the-scene action that occurred in installing Multiple Choice: from to Sample to Product.

Lucy Commoner, Head of Conservation and Curator of the Multiple Choice exhibition, carefully reattaches a celluloid button by Marion Weeber to its sample card. Sometimes an object must undergo conservation treatment in order to stabilize it for exhibition display.
 

Art handler Michael paints the case bases in the ground floor gallery that, only a few weeks later, will be occupied by the finished Multiple Choice exhibition.

Mathew “Jack-of-all-trades” Weaver (pictured here with another art handler, Jeff) is an integral member of the exhibitions team at Cooper-Hewitt. His work includes matting, framing, creating book and object mounts and general installation problem solving.
 

Several sample books await installation on their custom-made archival mounts. Objects are placed in protective storage until the moment they are ready to be installed.
 

Lucy Commoner and Mathew Weaver discuss placement of objects within a case. Although the location of objects is planned beforehand, sometimes there are small changes that need to be made to increase the understanding of one object with another and to assure visual continuity.
 

Even though the exhibition will not open for another week, art handlers Nanette and Harumi carefully place a Plexiglas vitrine over a case that has just been finished. Once a case has been filled with objects, it is immediately covered so that everything is protected from dirt and possible damage.