'Women on the Homefront' Museum Exhibit
In the beginning of September 2014, my Exhibitions team and I offered four options in which to on our final exhibitions project on and after reviewing the choices, we all decided on the Fairbairn House Heritage Centre project. Fairbairn House is located in the beautiful small-town of Wakefield, Quebec, which is a short 20-25 minutes drive north of Ottawa. The house was originally built and owned by the Fairbairn family in the mid-19th century, and has since been moved twice to its current location right next to the famous covered bridge in order to safe and preserve the house. The house has undergone renovations since its last move, and has become the center for tourism and heritage in the northern Gatineau Valley.
The team consisted of myself, Kaitlin Shimotakahara, Kelsey Hill, Amanda Lafleche, and our team leader Victoria Palmer, and together we formed the Women of the Homefront Exhibition Team. When we were still in the assuming roles stage, I chose the roles of Exhibit Preparator and Conservator, and once this and some other administration tasks were completed, we could officially begin work on the exhibit project. For the Exhibit Preparator position, my tasks were to prepare the exhibit space for the installation of the exhibit, and also to assist with the exhibit installation itself. Although this position was that of preparator, I added to my work designing the layout of the exhibit which included the centrepiece display that was a recreation of a kitchen counter and cupboard section from a World War I-era home. Then for my Conservator duties, I was responsible for analyzing the exhibit space in order to create a report on how the exhibit needed to be planned and installed in order to protect the artifacts that were to be used. All of my work from these two roles went towards the greater work of the project which was four-month long crucible that tested each one of us individually and as a team. The project was completed and accumulated into a well-received final report where we were asked by Fairbairn House to stay on and assist with the exhibit project, which we all gladly accepted to do.
Beginning in the middle of January 2015, our team would drive up to Wakefield every three or four weeks where each visit held a specific list of tasks that needed to be done on that day. Due to the nature of our project, some elements were not able to be started or continued until certain stages were met in the exhibit building process and left us feeling slightly overwhelmed at times. Nevertheless, we committed ourselves to seeing this project to completion and that is exactly what we continued to do during those cold and winter months. For this stage of the project, preparator role played the larger part as my conservation responsibilities were completed in December and would not be required again again in late April and early May when the exhibit was finally installed. My preparator duties over the course of these four and a half months saw me complete the following:
- Make physical outlines in the exhibit space where each text panel, display panel, display case, and activity display were to be placed
- Cleaning and preparation of display cases for artifacts to be used in exhibit
- Placement of artifactsm objects, and display cases within exhibit space
- Contributing to exhibit layout and design changes or additions when necessary
- Assisted with the construction of objects for exhibit (i.e. World War I-era food items, household products on empty soup cans and cardboard boxes)
- Assisting the president of Fairbairn House with making the food and preparing drinks on our Wakefield work days
With the completion of our respective tasks, all that was left was to install the artifacts and the activity sections which was done by the museum staff. It was not until the opening day of the exhibit on the Sunday of Victoria Day weekend that we saw the finished exhibit and we could not have been happier and more proud of our work and that of the museum staff. At the end of that opening day I took time to reflect on the entire experience and focus on how it benefited my person. The entire process of inception to completion of this exhibit was truly a great experience to be a part of, and what knowledge that I have gained will be used towards any exhibit building and installing in museums of all shapes and sizes in the future.