Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's in a name?

By: Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions
What’s in a name? Well, if you are titling an exhibit, there is a lot that goes in to finding just the right words. A couple of blogs ago we were talking about the upcoming fashion exhibit here at Fenimore Art Museum. We are featuring 19th century dress ranging from silk-shot empire waist gowns to the silky confections sported by women in John Singer Sargent portraits. The theme of the exhibit goes beyond the beauty of the clothes and talks about what was happening in New York State and our emerging American republic, and how all that influenced fashion in the 19th century.
A 3-D draft layout of the exhibition

So, how to convey some of that heavy stuff and still entice visitors in the front door and downstairs to the gallery? We started out with some very scholarly titles and quickly morphed into something a bit more playful.

From our first round we had - Connecting Threads: A Century of New York State Fashion – but there are ton of exhibits and publications using these words for textile shows, so we needed to dig a bit more.

And with a little help from other members of the curatorial team we got to - The Empire State’s New Clothes: 19th Century Upstate Fashion – which is nice but doesn’t roll off your tongue in quite the right way.

So, through our blog and Facebook post, we put it out to you, gentle readers, and we got some great responses. These included - New York State all Buttoned Up and Empire Waists in the Empire State – nice and catchy but its not all empire style clothing nor are we buttons only.
Close, very close, but with a little more work and this time help from our friends in our Marketing department we tweaked the empire waists and just starting rattling off clothing terms. Like Eliza Doolittle singing about that “Rain in Spain” we kept rolling words off our tongues, and “By George we got it”- Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace: A Century of New York Fashion. Yes, a bit light and playful, but we also hope memorable and enticing. Come to the Great Hall in Fenimore Art Museum next April and see what is really behind all that lace and finery. You may be surprised at what you learn and still have fun doing it!
Variations in the graphic treatments for the new title.


Anonymous said...

I know I'm too late, but I submit Shot with Silk (and subtitle, blah, blah blah)

Yesterday I was so happy to come up with a title for a show next year, "Look for Beauty: Philip Johnson and Art Museum Design" based on a quote by the architect. I was getting desparate!

DDanD said...

I was wondering if you create your 3-D draft layouts in-house? My students are budding Google SketchUp users and I'll be sharing how you have used 3-D drafts for visualizations. Perhaps a post just on how you use that technology for exhibitions would be of interest to others?

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