Curating our exhibition

My class was finishing drafts for our gallery booklet when the Barber Institute of Fine Arts closed due to Covid-19. We were curating an exhibition of nineteenth-century photographs lent from the Queen’s private art collection. The installation date was quickly approaching. We anticipated the day when objects would arrive at our gallery’s doorstep.

Visiting Windsor Castle to select photographs for the exhibition and speak with curators

Yet the future had other plans. Once campus shut down, our situation presented a new challenge: curating the Barber Institute’s first-ever online exhibition. Initial disappointment quickly turned into excitement for the creative possibilities of delivering our show online.

Moving online

We have since redirected efforts toward designing an amazing website. I marvel at our progress of adapting online education programs, designing the ‘virtual gallery’ layout, and turning the information booklet into a downloadable PDF. As I prepare to contribute my first audio talk, I reflect on what this experience has taught me thus far.

Advantages of online exhibitions

The biggest advantage of online exhibitions is they allow anyone to view art. While our exhibition will never physically exist as planned, we can now share our work with people around the world. Visitors can see the photographs anytime, anywhere, from the comfort of their own home or office.

People can also view artworks closely online, which is almost impossible in a museum. Often security alarms are activated when gallery visitors step too close to objects. This is made harder when a museum’s most popular objects are hanging behind a safety rope or sitting in a glass case. With our online exhibition, people can zoom in on images. They can spend unlimited time studying the detailed scene in a photograph. And they can look without breaking any rules or holding up the queue.

The first of many meetings over Zoom

Social media is a curator’s best friend

One advantage of being in the millennial crowd is my colleagues and I already manage numerous social media platforms. This has been incredibly useful the past few weeks when we transitioned to zoom meetings and digital communication to continue our work. Social media allows us to promote our exhibition to audiences in unique ways. We can maintain connection with visitors over the course of our show, offering videos and audio guides for enjoyment online.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

While I miss visiting the Barber Institute on campus, I appreciate the opportunity to share our exhibition with an even wider audience than before. This journey has been an incredible experience and I look forward to what is to come.

Sights of Wonder: Photographs from the 1862 Royal Tour

The exhibition, Sights of Wonder: Photographs from the 1862 Royal Tour, will be online from 12 June 2020. The exhibition is curated by ten MA Art History and Curating students. This is the third annual collaboration between the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Royal Collection Trust, and University of Birmingham’s Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies.