AudiencePrimary school, Secondary school
Learning stageStage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5
Learning areaCreative Arts, English, Geography, History
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An exhibition in a museum normally tells a story through objects, specimens, models, sounds, text, digital platforms, art, pictures and/or archival sources. A student-curated exhibition for your classroom or school would give great scope for object-based learning giving opportunities for students to investigate objects in ways that encourages collaboration, research, and discussion. This would enable the continual development of creative thinking and strong analytical skills. Object-based learning also allows for cross-curricular learning and inquiry-based learning, and locally sourced objects would engage and form connections with the local community, and empower students supporting cultural diversity and heritage amongst peers.
- The Australian Museum has been developing exhibitions for over 150 years. The first was in 1854 and was an exhibition of NSW products. See the exhibition timeline here.
- Many exhibitions don't end at the closing date - they continue to tour around the world and exist beyond the Australian Museum in Sydney. Find out about our current touring exhibitions here.
- There is a huge amount to consider when developing an exhibition including the 'big idea,' audiences, interpretation, text and design. Find out more here.
Developing your own exhibition gives great scope for cross-curricula and project-based learning as students delve deep into a chosen topic.
Follow the steps to help you create your own classroom or school exhibition.
As a class discuss and decide who your exhibition is for and what you think they would most like to learn about. You could ask members of the community for their input to help you find out more about their interests.
Exhibition story or theme
Decide what the main theme of the exhibition will be ensuring it supports curriculum learning. Ideas include: history of the local area, cultural diversity in your class or school, endangered animals in Australia etc.
What is the main message you want to communicate to visitors?
What are you hoping visitors will learn?
Objects, stories and inspiration
If you have already decided on some objects or stories you wish to include in your exhibition, spend some time examining them in a room. Share observations to help plan your exhibition theme.
For inspiration, find pictures related to the topic and create a mood board, or visit the Australian Museum.
Decide how many sections your exhibition will be divided into.
What are the themes for each sub-section?
What is the order of the sections?
Research exhibition sub-themes
In groups, students can research the sub-themes. Develop inquiry questions to help them and encourage the use of a variety of resources including books, the internet, and community consultation.
Think about what objects, pictures, or art works you would like to include in your exhibition to tell its story.
Could students bring in something from home?
Could you reach out to the local community or borrow items from the local library?
Could you create you own artworks or audio?
Investigate whether objects used are primary or secondary sources.
Create an object list
As you collect objects, create a list and record what you can of the following: the name of the object, the name of the collector, the name of the lender, the name of the maker
Think about where your exhibition will be held and draw a floorplan.
How could you best use this space to display your objects and stories?
Sketch the exhibition sections onto the floorplan.
Object grouping and arranging
Discuss how you wish to group and arrange objects for display. Some ideas include: geographic (where the objects come from), time period, animal group, by object type, chronologically, or to create a narrative.
Think about how you display your objects and stories.
What additional resources will you need to display them?
Can you use old pieces of wood, cardboard boxes, or folded paper for labels?
You need to write one introductory text panel about the whole exhibition to explain what it is about. This should be approximately 200 words.
You need to write an introductory text panel for each section of the exhibition to explain the theme of the section. These panels should be about 200 words each.
Labels are a useful way to share information about what is on display. On the labels include the title/name of the object or specimen, the date it was made or collected (if known and relevant), a description, and the object or specimen's story. Keep the audience in mind with an aim to develop text that will interest them, keep it brief, use short sentences, and try to stick to a limited word count so the labels look consistent.
Physically arrange your exhibition
Physically arrange your exhibition ensuring there is enough space to move around and items are displayed at appropriate heights.
Create a virtual exhibition
Alternatively you could create an online exhibition. You can view an online exhibition created by the Australian Museum in partnership with Google Arts and Culture here.
Create promotional material
Create posters and flyers using persuasive language which entices your audience to want to come along. Think about what would make your audience want to come along and why.
Send out invitations
Create a list of who you want to invite to your exhibition, including their necessary details. Decide on dates and times and how many visitors can view the exhibition at any time.
Launch the exhibition
Plan an opening event which might include speeches, spot talks, and Q&A and nibbles.
Gather feedback to find out how you might be able to improve your next exhibition. Use feedback forms, create a feedback wall, and observe what visitors seem most interested in.
Additional digital resources students could create to add to the classroom exhibition include: make short simple films using apps such as iMovie, role-play interviews with a relevant historic figure, accompany digital pictures and audio using ipads, create a soundscape using Garageband, create a background music playlist, create QR codes using an app such as QR Scanner to connect to digital labels for the objects you display.
Create a tour or an exhibition trail
In groups, ask students to develop a tour or experience for visitors coming to the exhibition they created. Every object tells a story so encourage students to think of ways to help engage others in that story eg. miming, showing pictures that supplement the object or specimen, development of open-ended questions, or an art-based activity that complements a section of the exhibition.