Producing awesome exhibits is, of course, the main goal of the exhibits team at the Greeley History Museum. Each exhibit starts its life as a concept about three years before its doors open. The idea grows and develops as the team dives into artifact research, image selection, and gallery design. But before we get too carried away with all of the cool stuff we can put in an exhibit, we have to make sure everything will fit in the exhibit space. As any artist knows, a good visual representation can help people grasp concepts in a way that words lack. Instead of flat drawings or slide presentations, we make scale models.
Part I: Gallery Space
My latest scale project was the Greeley History Museum’s East Gallery. Like flour in a cake, the key ingredient to a good gallery model is precise measurement of the real space. Feeling like an architect, I grabbed my handy 16’ measuring tape, notepad, and pencil, and headed to the East Gallery. I drew a rough representation of the space from a bird’s eye view and wrote in each measurement, including the height of the walls. When I thought I had measured everything correctly, I went back to the office and crunched the numbers.
Converting the measurements into scale always seems like a daunting task. Luckily, we use a pretty simple 1 foot to 1 inch (or 12 inches to 1 inch) scale conversion. This means that if a wall is 144 inches long, it will be represented in the model as 12 inches long. After converting all the real measurements to scale measurements (feeling grateful that my brain survived the math), I gathered all the materials I needed: ½” and ¼” thick foam board, Elmer’s glue, a ruler, and a pencil with a hefty eraser.
I started the construction by making the floor of the East Gallery. After all, a solid foundation usually translates to a solid structure, right? With my trusty ruler, I drew the scale measurements of the floor in bird’s eye view (length by width) onto a piece of ½” thick foam board, added an inch on every side, and cut the shape out. Then, I drew the shapes of the walls in scale (length by height) onto ¼” thick foam board and cut them out. Lastly, I positioned the walls in their appropriate layout and glued them down quickly.
After allowing everything to dry completely, it was time for the finishing touches. I marked the precise locations of the columns, pipes, and electrical outlets in the room. Then, I took pictures of the brick wall and mural, printed them, and glued them onto the appropriate walls. It actually looked like the East Gallery! I called the team over to make sure I had accounted for all the appropriate details. We all agreed that it was finished, and enthusiastically began planning the layout of our upcoming brick art exhibit called Build! Frontiers.
Written by: Holly Berg, Greeley Museums Assistant Exhibits Curator