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Effective Exhibit Interpretation and Design


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Table of Contents

Introduction List of Illustrations List of Abbreviations Acknowledgements The Museums Chapter 1 oDesigning an exhibit and a program space simultaneously oRetrofitting and Adding Interpretation to Existing Exhibits oNo Program Space oChallenges and Benefits of collaborative exhibit design/fabrication and interpretation/program development Communication Organization Space Dead space Location Connection to exhibit Sound and activity from adjacent exhibits Storage Technical needs Visitor comfort oAddress the needs of an audience to see, hear, and focus oDiscuss the various styles of interpretation best suited to the goals of your exhibit oResults Chapter 2 oMascots oExhibit host/greeter oTours oGuest presenters oObject carts oFacilitated programs oDemonstrations/presentations oCharacter appearances oStorytelling oCreative dramatics oLiving history oMuseum theatre Chapter 3 oProgram development oExpectations of programs and those who present them oWho presents oWho are our interpreters and what do we call them? oSelecting presenters oTraining/coaching oWhy hire live interpreters when electronic means are available? oScripts oIn closing... Appendix A Appendix B Appendix C Appendix D Appendix E Appendix F Appendix G Appendix H Appendix I Resources

About the Author

Tessa Bridal has over 30 years of experience working with museums, and as a consultant nationally and internationally, and received the American Association of Museums' Education Committee Award for Excellence in Practice, given to individuals who have greatly influenced the work of the museum education field. She is the author of a prize winning novel, a contributor to several anthologies, has served as editor of newsletters and museum publications, and of the non-fiction book Exploring Museum Theatre, also published by Alta Mira Press. She can be contacted at tessa.bridal@icloud.net.


Bridal is always cognizant of the need to remain on mission, and encourages not just cooperation but collaboration between departments that may at first seem at odds. She offers several clear paths to such collaboration, and the end results can only benefit museum patrons. Packed with effective, audience-tested, real world examples from some of the country's great institutions, Effective Exhibit Interpretation and Design is a thoughtful and thought provoking book that that will refocus those teams that already employ the techniques, and energize institutions that have yet to discover the rich and wonderful world of museum theater. Tessa Bridal has given the museum community an invaluable gift, and we would do well to follow the example and share the lessons of this gift with our visitors. -- Douglas Coler, Assistant Manager, (In)Formal Education, Discovery Place, North Carolina
Tessa Bridal has a depth of experience creating interpretation that engages the attendee and spurs their minds while respecting the art and history of the exhibit. Her approach and perspective have made life-long museum attendees and members of many who envisioned a museum as stale and dry only to find it alive and vibrant from her interpretive approach. I believe firmly in her marriage of theater and learning to create an experience for the attendee that stays with them long after they have left. Her approach in this text allows people to develop this style of appropriately engaging interpretation for their museum environment. -- David Grindle, Executive Director, United States Institute for Theatre Technology
Tessa Bridal coalesces her vast knowledge of museum theatre expertise making Effective Exhibit Interpretation and Design a mandatory, useful and educational "how to handbook" for both novices and pros. This book is also packed with other museum theatre professionals' programming ideas for creating memorable and meaningful visitor experiences. -- Harriet Lynn, producer and artistic director of the Heritage Theatre Artists' Consortium, Baltimore, MD
Effective Exhibit Interpretation and Design provides convincing arguments for including high quality live interpretation in your museum, zoo or science center exhibitions to foster deeper relationships between your audience and your content. This valuable and practical guide is packed with case studies and clear instructions for selecting appropriate content to interpret, designing performance spaces, finding professional script writers, and hiring and working with actors. Everything you need to know to get started, whether planning a new exhibition or adding live interpretation to an existing space, is included in this vital resource. -- Barbara E. Brennan, co-director, Graduate Exhibit Design Certificate Program, George Washington University

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