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ABC texts

June 26 2007 at 2:26 AM
Keith Matthews 

Response to Re: Museum Displays

I agree with John that writing museum labels is an art. You need to decide what you want to say about the item, who you are aiming at and what they will need to understand. Trying to write something for everyone is a nightmare.

An old technique which works is to use ABC texts - A being the headline which grabs attention and says what the thing is (you can then decide if you want to go further or not). B lets the casual visitor know a bit about it without being tedious. C is the 'so you want to know more' text. this technique is directly analagous to how newspapers work.

A big point you seem to have already grasped is that you have the real thing. Don't be tempted to write an exhaustive history - the object should be displayed so the interpretation supports it, if you take away the text, the object should still attract attention. The reverse, taking away the object still leaves an interesting booklet on the wall, is a mistake (you could be selling them that booklet!).

There are very good Canadian, UK and US web resources for writing museum interpretive texts. Contact me via our website and I would be more than happy to help

Keith Matthews
Curator of Military History
York Museums Trust
York Castle Museum

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