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What is Showchange?

Posted on July 20, 2023 at 5:10 PM by Alisha Abner

As I’ve worked at University Museums the last couple of years as a communicator, I’ve gotten to see and be involved in much of the behind-the-scenes workings while learning the lingo. One of the terms I’ve learned is showchange. This is what we call the time we are changing most of the exhibitions (or shows).

At University Museums, showchange typically happens the month before a new semester at Iowa State begins. Not all of the exhibitions in the three museums and sculpture garden necessarily change at the same time, but enough do that our small staff and interns participate in all of the aspects involved in both taking exhibitions down and putting new exhibitions up.

  • Condition reports

  • Carefully packing objects

  • Putting permanent collection objects into storage

  • Shipping or driving loaned objects back to their homes or on to their next location

  • Removing labels, boards, vinyl, etc.

  • Patching holes in the walls

  • Painting walls and pedestals

  • Putting display cases into storage

  • Getting display cases out of storage

  • Cleaning display cases

  • Picking up or receiving loaned objects and exhibition shipments

  • Moving walls (yes, the walls in two of the museums move!)

  • Unpacking objects

  • More condition reports!

  • Placing objects according to the curators’ plans

  • Lighting objects

  • Printing labels, boards, vinyl, etc.

  • Placing labels, boards, vinyl, etc. where they go

  • Clean up and prepare to open

That’s not the extensive list, but it’s most of the physical work we do during showchange. We often have artists visiting and helping to install their works, and ISU Facilities Planning & Maintenance (FP&M) will lend a hand. Brunnier Art Museum could have one to four exhibitions rotating in and out. Christian Petersen Art Museum might have one to three changing exhibitions. Farm House Museum typically does not change exhibitions over the summer but will change in November for Yuletide and again in January for something new. The Anderson Sculpture Garden changes every two to three years, typically in July or August. Some semesters have more change than others, but showchange is always a very busy time.

While all this is going on, we’re also promoting the new exhibitions with postcards, signs, fliers, graphics, posters and more. We’re inviting faculty to employ the museums and exhibitions for their classes and promoting upcoming programs to the community. We’re finishing final details on some programs and attempting to stay on top of our regular work and emails.

Showchange is a hectic time, but it can be fun! It’s nice to get away from the computer and get dirty while wearing more casual clothes. Adapting and problem solving when something goes wrong (because something will go wrong at some point) gives us feelings of accomplishment. Showchange brings the University Museums staff together as a team and the end result... see and judge for yourself.

I hope those on campus at ISU, people from the Ames and surrounding community, and anyone who will be in the area between August 21 and December 17 this year stop by to take in the exhibitions and benefit from all the hard work we’re doing now to create a fantastic experience for you. Consider this your official invitation! 

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Images from top:

Museums staff Sydney Marshall, Caitlin Patton, and Alisha Abner placing plexiglass over Kimono Maquette 1, Crouching, 2012 by Karen LaMonte for the exhibition Double Take at Christian Petersen Art Museum, fall 2022.

Open crates for the exhibition Mythical Bounty: Glass Sculpture by Amber Cowan at Brunnier Art museum, spring 2022. Shows half of the commission The Dreams of a Descendant of Sireneuse, 2021, now in the permanent collection.

Crates containing works of art from the traveling exhibition Arte Cubano at Brunnier Art Museum fall 2021 loaded up in a truck.

Artist Harriet Bart with FP&M carpenter Gary Puls after hanging Quotidian, 2023 for the exhibition Harriet Bart: Material Alchemy at Christian Petersen Art Museum spring 2023.

Brunnier Art Museum curator Adrienne Gennett with artist Joan Webster-Vore hanging March of the Emerald Ash Borer, 2020, for the exhibition Compelling Ground at Brunnier Art Museum spring 2021.

Categories: Behind the Scenes

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