Making of an Exhibition: Kimono in the 20th Century

Haori (short jacket)As we’ve mentioned before, a lot of hard work goes into conceptualizing and executing an exhibition. But one aspect often gets overlooked: the exhibition design. Here at Pacific Asia Museum, John Cline takes the curatorial vision of an exhibition and turns it into a three-dimensional display that showcases objects and ideas in a visitor-friendly way. “Ideally, the design and the show itself evolve together,” John said. “I start with a discussion with the curator well in advance, and help them visualize their concept.” Since he’s often working on two or three shows at any given point, he has a lot of ideas to keep straight.

Right now, John and the curatorial department are working on Kimono in the 20th Century, opening March 30. Because the subject is textiles, the three-dimensional subject poses specific challenges. Should the kimono be hung so the visitor can get the full effect of the design, or should it be dressed on a mannequin as it was intended to be worn? For those we dress on mannequins, how do we ensure accuracy? In addition, textiles are particularly light-sensitive. John plans to address that problem with a combination of in-case fiber optic lighting and track lighting, while also taking into account the planned rotation of the exhibition. Because the show continues for a full year, many pieces will change halfway through to limit exposure to light and to give visitors the opportunity to see a wider range of our kimono collection. John also takes this rotation into account when designing the exhibition– the cases need to accommodate both sets of objects!

One fun challenge has been the presentation of the kimono accessories. Because these kimono are so striking, they could easily take away from the details of the smaller objects in the exhibition. While the plans are still being finalized, John has sketched out small platforms (at right) for the shoes to make them more prominent and the details easier to see.

Make sure to catch BOTH rotations throughout the year, and see how John and the rest of the curatorial team displayed these gorgeous pieces to their full advantage. Also, mark your calendars for the wide range of programs accompanying the exhibition– from Curator’s Tours to Free Family Festivals, there will be something for everyone! ~CM

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