27 September I started my first module at the Design Museum, I met one of my professors Donna Loveday and her colleagues. She leads the exhibition team and curate museum exhibitions at the Design Museum. In our first day, we met three members of the exhibition team who curate current exhibitions in the design museum. I was very surprised each staff of the exhibition team manages each exhibition instead of doing teamwork for one exhibition. Besides, the stuffs do not call themselves a member of exhibition but a curator. They do independent research and exhibition plans on their own but they are also supported by other colleagues and museum departments. Therefore, each exhibition shows a very clear picture of curators’ research interests and their concept of exhibition installations. In addition, they can state their names for exhibitions. It is an unusual occasion in museums and galleries. Because museum and gallery exhibitions are about how to present results of teamwork rather than one man’s achievement, so audiences do not see a specific name of exhibition teams but an exhibition department or a museum is shown on the theme wall.
After three curators of exhibition team shared their curating experiences in the Design Museum, we had a quick tour in the museum. One of my favourite exhibitions was Kenneth Grange’s retrospective. Kenneth Grange is an iconic product designer in the UK. His design products include a large range of everyday objects, from Wilkinson razors to Parker pens, from bucket of Boots to Kodak cameras. His works also have involved in Londoners' daily life in half century: Intercity trains, bus stops and benches, and also, the London taxi cab. Kenneth Grange's retrospective gave me a clear picture to review the birth of British design icons and the legacy of this iconic designer in the UK.
I have not heard Kenneth Grange until I visited the Design Museum. I was very impressed Mr. Grange had done a lot of design works which is still presenting the images of the UK. Curator Gemma Curtin leaded us to view briefly the achievement of Kenneth Grange in making Britain Modern by exhibition objects and installation. She also has explained her idea of arranging Mr. Grange’s first retrospective in the UK. Gemma tried to present Mr. Grange’s works by his drafts, models and real products. Therefore, there are many priceless models and drafts, which are borrowed from Mr. Grange, are shown in the exhibition. We also can see a real taxi cab, bus stops and parking meters are installed in the exhibition. For some huge design products, for example, the High Speed trains and the BP patrol pump are presented by illustrations and posters.
Gemma told us the most difficult part of exhibition installation was Mr. Grange’s design base has been moved to Tokyo and his house in the UK is in the countryside where is impossible to return to London within one day. In addition, Mr.Grange did not want to display some works that he had done in his early stage of design career. Gemma needed to persuade him that all exhibited objects of the exhibition provide audiences a comprehensive picture of his achievement in making modernity in the UK. Thus, Gemma spent four years to negotiate with Mr.Grange resulting in a meaningful exhibition. It is a case to tell us research and communication are important tasks during the beginning stage of an exhibition. Curators need not only decent knowledge to explore exhibition topics; they also have to keep patience on data collection and communication. As a result, an exhibition is able to attach educational function.
In my view, a curator of an exhibition does not stand as a hero who creates a successful exhibition. Curator needs to put more effort on research and social networks. A good exhibition consists of a clear concept, interior phenomenon and meaningful objects. Curator’s job is to draw an exhibition concept and then to collect useful information for supporting their ideas. Curators have to analyse what context of their research interests can become a good story for audiences. Good social relations help curator to find right people and right objects to achieve a successful exhibition. Right artists, right sponsors and right media are essential partners of making an exhibition. They help curators and exhibition teams to find core objects for exhibitions and to make a specific strategy for promotion. Curating an exhibition is about teamwork and is about how curator cooperates effectively with different sources and departments.