Monday, September 27, 2010

Assignment 4- Exhibit Design

1-Mission Statement

The First Person Museum seeks to explore the histories and stories embedded in everyday objects. Their stated mission is "to share those objects, along with the stories behind them, both online and at a live multi-media exhibition". The FPM shows the visitor that oftentimes there can be an unexpected and rich history in the objects worth illuminating. What do a ring, stuffed bear, wedding dress, pan and shawl mean to the people who own them and more broadly what do they mean to our society at large?

2- Organize your storyline into "galieries of thought"

The FPM arrangement could use a combination of category and theme. Carla's Wedding Ring could be stand for "marriage" or more abstractly "loss". The objects in the First Person Museum all lend themselves well to the concept of observation or deduction as well. There would be be traditional labels that provide historical context. The juxtaposition of "loss" and the historical information could give the viewer a clue, but leave it to the viewer to speculate on any deeper meaning.
3- Inventory the content and pin down the most important facts

Viewers should be left to discover more information as "history detectives". Discovery of the personal meanings of the objects could be presented through headphones from the voice of the owner in a micro-oral history of sorts.

4- Find ways to motivate and engage your visitors

Step 4 asks the designer to integrate multiple viewpoints, interactivity and invitation for the viewers to contribute. An interactive element I envision would be through a mic affixed to the wall beside the object. Before listening to the "micro-oral history" from the original owner, users would be invited to contribute one of their own. Each user would have a maximum of two minutes to answer the question, "Do you have a ring? What does yours mean to you?" Their meaning would be contrasted by the museums voice on the interpretive label and the owners voice they are about to play. Each new history would record over the other so museum goers never experience the same context twice.

5- Plan the "look and feel" of your exhibit

The objects would displayed on their own rather than in shared cases or stands in a sparse, free-standing, off-white pedestals. On the wall behind the pedestal would be large decal lettering (approximately 1.5' high) with the name of the object in black. There would also be projections of media referencing the object on the wall along with vinyl wallpaper that has different archival material (articles and other pictures) that piece together some of the context or play off the ideas presented in the museum interpretive text. Films where it has played a role projected on the wall. The idea would be to draw each object out and elevate the vernacular objects to museum like status. The other text and archival material would be supplementary and hopefully not overpower the objects.

Despite being in in a common room, there would be relatively dim lighting in the room as a whole with lighting spotlighting each object. The idea would be to create distinct spaces within the shared one where museum goers could experience each separate object.

6- Produce and install- Mock-up

(wish I could convey this better)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carla's Wedding Ring- Post 4

During the commercial break of your sitcom, a commercial comes on showing a young couple strolling in the park by an older couple. After seeing the glistening diamond on her wedding band, DeBeers Jewelers reminds you that "a diamond lasts forever". You change the channel and witness Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly attempting to solve a supposed murder. A wedding band is separated from a woman and becomes the damning evidence in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film, Rear Window. When you turn off the television and put on the radio, you could possibly hear any one of the seventy-four recorded versions of a song named "Wedding Ring".

In contemporary American society, you'd be hard pressed to find an object imbued with as much moral heft, omnipresence and gravitas as a wedding band. Whether it be in song, theater, film, commercials, advertisements or literature, the wedding ring and its associations recur time and time again in our culture.

The ring worn on the finger has no clear origin and took on a variety of different forms and functions over centuries. It could be form of intellectual or religious rank, currency, a weapon, part of a magic or healing ritual, as a memorial and as a sign of love. Despite all of these uses over time, the engagement or wedding ring is the most popular form in our culture.

In "Rings For the Finger", George Frederick Kunz places the use of rings as part of a wedding ceremony or to signify love in a tradition closest to our contemporary usage in England around the time of the Reformation. Over time there has been a lot a variance in which finger or customs surrounded the ring according to region, time period and religion. It's now exchanged at a wedding ceremony and worn on the base of what's come to be known as the "ring finger" on right hand. Where it once was worn primary by females, the 1920's through 1940's gave rise to the double ring ceremonies for males and females. It was spurred in a large part by marketing of jewelers. It's covered ectensively by Vicki Howard in "A 'Real Man's Ring': Gender and the Invention of the Tradition" and is the practice Carla's ring is a product of.

Some people have come to choose not to wear it for utilitarian or ideological reasons whereas some share in Grace Kelly's characters stance that "the only way anybody could get that ring would be to chop off my finger." The meanings and customs of the ring and more specifically wedding rings are not at any sort of endpoint and part of a continuum, sure to evolve over time. As I typed, a friend posted this link to Facebook indicating a future where a ring may do so much more.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Carla's Wedding Band"- Object History

Although the original provenance of Carla's wedding band is unknown, according to Carla it was purchased in "a popular jewelry store" in the Cherry Hill Mall in the summer of 2005. As of September of 2010, there were seventeen businesses classified by the "Jewelry" category on the Cherry Hill Mall's website. It was part of a pair where one went to Carla and the other to her husband.

The function and meaning of the object evolved over time paralleling the failed marriage that it signified. Originally it was purchased as a sign of commitment--a common use for the band. Carla added that part of its function was "to prove to herself that she was serious about the marriage". As their engagement progressed, Carla became hesitant about the marriage and tried to return the band but was told it was too late by the jeweler. She decided to go on with the marriage and the band was part of the contract she had entered into. It went through the process many bands went through when it "became blessed, exchanged, and placed on the appropriate fingers", a somewhat rote characterization of the tradition by Carla. After three years, Carla's reservations about the marriage became fully realized with Carla moving into a new house during the dissolution of the marriage. Along with the move to a new house, she described removing the band as "the final symbol of the failing marriage".

Having been in a friends wedding about two months ago, the disparity in meaning between the band I held at that wedding and the one I held at the Art Sanctuary was striking. The wedding band I held in the wedding in Lancaster was an object with a future ahead of it. The traditional symbolic value of commitment between two people and function as a centerpiece of the marital ceremony were ascribed to it. The only exceptions I've been around otherwise have memorialized a significant other or relative who is deceased. Carla's wedding band was the first ring I've been around where it's been presented to me in this particular context with Carla describing the box it's in as a "coffin".

Where she once tried to sell it to at least recoup its monetary value before the marriage, she hasn't sold it after. Although any guess I'd have as to what it could mean now would be purely speculative, it clearly has some value to Carla outside of the ways that I've traditionally encountered. The band itself is simple without any ornamentation, but it clearly carries complex meaning to Carla.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Object Description- "Carla's Wedding Band"

The object that I have is "Carla's Wedding Band." So far I have only seen a picture of it from one angle so am reduced to making inferences from the photo and comparing them to generalizations offered by other sources. Wedding bands (also known as rings) are circular pieces of metal varying widely in size, make, production and price worn to celebrate or identify the marriage of the wearer. They are produced to fit around the base of the ring finger of a human hand and sold in a variety of sizes that correspond to the circumference of the ring. National jewelry retailer Zales sells rings from 3 to 13.5 in size, which are equal to 14 to 22.6mm in circumference. Without a to scale photo, it is impossible to tell what the size is of this particular ring.

Wedding bands can be made from a variety of metals that partially determine the range in prices they are sold for. A survey of bands available on online auctioneer eBay includes bands made of gold, platinum, tungsten, stainless steel and titanium. Carla's band appears to be gold or gold plated.

Wedding bands are often produced or sold as matching sets. Carla indicated that this ring was one of a pair she characterized as "inexpensive and generic," meaning it may have been mass produced--as opposed to handcrafted--and may be identical to at least one other ring.

A variety of stones can be affixed to wedding rings. They can also be engraved with patterns or names. From the angle and small description provided by the owner, there doesn't appear to be any stone or engraving on this particular band. From the side photograph it appears uniform and absent of any ornamentation or stones, although a view from another angle could reveal otherwise.

The ring sits in a hinged container Carla calls its "coffin." It would appear to be somewhere between two to four inches in its height, width and depth and made of plastic or cardboard. The ring is nested in what appears to be velvet or a black fabric similar in appearance. There is a gold accent on the container.