Hello Dr Pepper enthusiasts!!! My name is Brad Roop and I am a part-time employee at the Dr Pepper Museum. I would like to share with you my experiences with our very first traveling exhibit, Moneyville. Many of you may have already visited the museum and have seen the exhibit, but what I would like to share with you is the stuff that you didn’t see. It is my hope that my experiences with this exhibit from setting it up to becoming a docent may provide an illustration to all those who would like to know “what goes on behind the scenes.”
However, before I begin allow me to give you a more detailed background of who I am. As mentioned above I am a part-time employee of the Dr Pepper Museum. I was hired as a Collections Associate and work in the collections department. I am also a graduate student in the Department of Museum Studies at Baylor University. It is my hope that I will be graduating in May of 2011.
When I was asked to help with the installation of Moneyville I was really excited, as this was a tremendous opportunity for me to get some experience in the exhibit field. My first task was to help plan out where each exhibit piece would go on the second floor. I consulted with the exhibits team and learned some very interesting things about exhibit placement. First, the size of the room (and I don’t mean just floor space), may dictate where each piece will go. This particular exhibit had some pieces that were really tall and oddly shaped, thus we had to accommodate their size by placing them in certain places on the second floor. You see, the ceiling on the second floor is higher in some places than it is in others (something I did not know at the time) so we had to be mindful of that fact. The second thing I learned had to do with aesthetics and “flow” of the exhibit. We tried to clump similarly themed pieces together, thus enhancing the visitor experience. What this process became was a giant game of Tetris because we had to also be mindful of pieces that needed electricity, pieces that we thought would be the most popular, etc. And wouldn’t you know that this was actually the easiest part of the whole process?
Once planning was complete it was time to begin installation. Now I was working with a new team of people, and while we all had our areas of expertise, we were certainly not seasoned professionals at installing exhibits like you would typically find at bigger institutions. Our team consisted of about 4 people and it was in the middle of June when we started, so it was hot! Before the exhibit arrived I had actually planned out which piece we needed to unload first, so we could fill the second floor from back to front. However, the exhibit did not get delivered to us in that way so we had to make adjustments on the spot. Come to find out we had to do this a lot during the installation of the exhibit. Ha ha!
It may interest some of you to know that each and every piece that we pulled off the crates had to be condition reported. What that means is that we had to examine each piece for damage to be sure when the exhibit was returned that we would not be charged for repairs. This process was essential because the exhibit had been traveling extensively and was looking well-loved when we received it.
One of the biggest challenges during the installation process was getting the big pieces to the second floor. The Dr Pepper Museum does not have a freight elevator, so guess where we had to take those pieces to get them to the second floor? Yep, that’s right — the stairs!!! So our team decided to scratch the idea of only bringing in pieces that we needed on certain days and just move all the large pieces up first. Once they were in, it then became a matter of getting the smaller pieces and finishing each exhibit piece one by one. We ended up finishing ahead of schedule with a couple of days to spare from our initial deadline.
The installation process provided its own set of challenges and most of them, as I mentioned above, we couldn’t plan for. What you have to be able to do is learn to make adjustments on the spot, something I feel that I got better at because of this experience. You may think that it was a lot of work getting the pieces up to the second floor (and it was) but, something else that also takes a lot of work is communication with the other members of the group. I think once the team found its rhythm, we were able to work at our best pace, but it did take some work and a little time to develop that pace.
Once the installation was complete, and we knew that everything worked, it now became time to hone my skills as a museum docent for this new exhibit. I am currently serving in this capacity and let me tell you this is certainly a unique experience. What I feel is most rewarding is seeing children smile as they discover something new in the exhibit. It is interesting seeing different family interactions unfold when they are provided with something new to explore and discover. I think the biggest challenge with being a museum docent is the time that is needed to devote to this job. I am collections associate; we also have marketing interns, program interns, and exhibit interns. We are each expected to devote time each week to our docent role. As part of a small museum staff, you must realize that you might have to do more than just your main job!
Well it has been a pleasure talking to all of you and I hope that you might have learned something new! If you do have any questions please feel free to ask me! I work at the museum during the week and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about my experiences with this exhibit. Talk to you soon!!!