Exhibit labels take way more thought than most visitors realize. Decisions about design, layout, wording and content all take time and effort. My most recent challenge has been moving from the creation of museum exhibit labels to the creation of art exhibit labels.
Though both types of labels serve similar purposes — to inform patrons about the work on display, the style of the labels can very greatly. Ideally both museum and art labels should link back to the theme of the exhibit and support a general interpretation plan. Introductory, background, gallery overview, and individual work labels are all common art exhibit label types.
My history background urges me to fill labels with historical context and biographical type details. Cultural and historical context are still important in art labels but so are references to artistic style, technique, process and linkages to the visual works. Like museum exhibition labels there is always a struggle to include relevant information in a clear, concise, and appealing way.
Personally I find introduction and gallery overview panels the most difficult, as these tend to be the most text-heavy labels. When I visit art museums or galleries I like reading overview labels, but I often find that I skim longer labels and by the end of the gallery I have label fatigue. There needs to be a middle ground between over explaining/labeling items and not providing any context.
A few resources I’ve found helpful when just beginning to learn about art labeling practices:
- Writing Effective Art Exhibition Labels, MoMA
- Writing Text and Labels best practices, Australian Museum
- Evolution of Exhibit Labels, Dana Fragomeni
Feel free to mention any resources you’ve found helpful in the comments.