Textile Museum St Gallen and ICOM Costume Committee member
In planning an exhibition, it is important to calculate the actual size of the exhibition space which is available, as well as planning access routes for both people, large exhibition cases, and objects. Remember when planning exhibition design that the space between the showcases is vital to the traffic plan - visitors must be able to move freely from one case to the next. Preferably there should be an intuitive feeling of how to move around in the exhibition, so people are not blocking each other’s passage, or crossing in front of each other, or backing into others when they try to read an exhibition label on an adjacent wall. If guests do not easily understand the layout of the exhibition, they begin to move around in unexpected patterns, causing disruption and confusion. Guests feel cheated if they think they have missed something in an exhibition they have paid to see, so showing a layout of the exhibition space at the beginning is good customer service.
The doors and showcase openings play a huge role for exhibiting costume. For example, a dress with a large crinoline skirt, mounted on a mannequin in the workshop, may be far too large to get through the door of the showcase or even the door to the room where it is to be shown. Showcases have to be large enough to install the clothed mannequins as well as allowing room for technical staff to move around inside to make final adjustments after the figures are in place.
The same is true for the construction of crates for transport. Is the lift big enough? Here the weight factor should not be forgotten. Can a filled box be lifted and moved by museum or transport staff? And is there sufficient - and clean and safe - room where the objects are being unpacked for both the crates and the objects after unpacking?
Usually we cannot design our exhibition space from the ground up but have to adapt what is available to our specific needs.