Learning the Trade

There are lots of things that make Peterborough an ideal place to run a canoe museum, including lots of water, plenty of canoes and a rich history of canoe manufacturing. It also has another important resource for us in the form of Fleming College, home of the Museum Management and Curatorship and Collections Conservation and Management programs. Faculty and students from these programs have been involved with the Museum since it opened in 1997 and they have contributed substantially to the Museum's success. Two years ago, students worked with Curator, Jeremy Ward and Artisan Program Coordinator, Beth Stanley to create the exhibit Walter Walker: A Life in Canoes. One of the outcomes of that project was a discussion about how the Museum could get more involved in helping the next generation of museum workers learn their trade. This led to a pilot workshop in 2011 in which General Manager, John Summers taught computer lab classes at Fleming College in which students used Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to each create a sample exhibit panel which was then printed and mounted in the Museum's Dembroski Exhibit Studio. For 2012 this institutional partnership was formalized by creating a new Fleming course called ARTS1829, Exhibit Panel Design.

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The course once again began with three computer lab sessions where students were introduced to the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Bridge as they each created a sample 24" x 36" exhibit panel. Then, things got really interesting, because they merged what they had learned about digital design with an artifact they had been working on in the Exhibition Development course and spent the next 6 hours designing an exhibit panel or panels for their own mini-exhibit project. This culminated on Tuesday December 4th when they came to the Museum, flash drives in hand, to output and mount their panels.

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They started by placing their finished panels, which had been exported from InDesign as high-quality pdfs, into a Photoshop document which was then sent to the Museum's large-format HP printer to be output on adhesive vinyl. There were some nervous moments when the graphics first started to emerge but they all looked good and then it was on to the next stage.

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The Museum board room had been commandeered for the day as an exhibit workshop where Artisan Program Coordinator, Beth Stanley and volunteer (and Fleming Museum Management and Curatorship graduate) Jessica Lapp helped them trim, laminate and edge their panels.

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By the end of the day there were smiles all 'round and some fabulous exhibit panels were on their way back to the College to be married up with their artifacts for the completion of the project.

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This is a wonderful example of a win/win/win situation: The students g0t hands-on training and experience in a working museum; the Museum and the College forged a new partnership and Museum staff got a chance to share what they know. We're really pleased to have had a chance to participate in training emerging museum professionals and we look forward to doing it again soon.