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Re: Museum Typography

Interesting. I don't "do" museum typography, but I've worked long enough
in museums to have noticed a few things.

I)Style-wise, there are two approaches:

a) The old-fashioned "let's type it up on the IBM selectric" approach, in
which the curator oversees the project to the end (I've seen white-haired
fuddies actually wander through exhibitions at the opening, assistant in
tow, dictating rewrites).

b) The new-fangled "show-biz" approach, in which the exhibition design is
handed over to a professional designer or architect. In such a case the
labels are written up and provided by the curators well ahead of time, and
then the designer gets "creative" in terms of style, placement and so

Content-wise, there has been an enormous amount of thought and
discussion about the labels - everything from Tom Wolfe's witchy "The
written word" to Susan Vogel's amazing tour-de-force, an exhibition of
African Art which was really about how art is labeled.

Most of these discussions come from art historians interested in the
history and politics of museums: who is the art trying to reach? what is
being withheld? how is the viewer manipulated through the placement of the
art and its description?

In closing, an anecdote. I once met a museum curator who had just finished
putting up a show. It turned out she had hired a calligrapher to write the
wall labels. The calligrapher, in turn, decided that the calligraphy WAS
the artwork, and wanted equal billing...The curator, as you can imagine,
was rather miffed.

 On Tue, 2 Feb 1999, The Holves wrote:

> I am currently Co-Editor of "Alphabet", the journal for the Friends of
> Calligraphy in San Francisco. I am searching for a writer, article, person
> who is knowledgeable about typography used in museum displays - especially
> on the wall. Is there  a typeface that has been specifically designed to be
> read on the wall? If so, which one(S). If not, which typefaces are most
> often used in museum displays?  I'm almost always struck when visiting many
> museums how much lettering is there to be read and wonder if much thought
> has been given to the amount of reading the museum is suggesting the viewer
> to do.  I personally think that there is too much, for we (I) know that
> it's much easier to sit down and read from a well designed book. Any
> thoughts, articles, knowledgeable people about this topic?....Let me know.
> Thanks. Brooke Holve

Paul Werner, New York City

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