Yes! I’ve added another credit to my musical resume:
Professional Museum Exhibit Installer.
Sure, I’ve curated my own little museum for years, but this was at a professional public instruction: NAMM’s Museum of Making Music. As you know, we’re opening the special exhibition “FLOATING STRINGS: The Remarkable Story of the Harp Guitar in America” there in 2 weeks (gulp!).
I went down yesterday to do Q & A with a huge room full of docents. It was supposed to be a “talk,” but the second I sat down the hands shot up, and there was literally never a second when a hand was not up the entire hour I spent trying to get a word in edgewise (that’s how curious folks are about that mysterious instrument, the “harp guitar”). I don’t know who left more confused – me or them. But seriously, they were a great audience, intelligent and curious.
We also put the final touches on a spectacular 60-page full-color exhibit catalog now headed for print (“How can I get one?!” you ask? Visit the museum and pick one up. I don’t yet know quantities or availability afterwards).
Meanwhile, in the curtained-off space, the exhibit install was going full blast – and I was ultra-curious how in the world they manage the logistics (and working with priceless instruments underfoot all the while).
20 days ago, they began patch and paint (above). Every temporary exhibit starts completely from scratch: clean, bare walls that are then painted in the exhibit’s custom theme colors. Large white rectangles were also painted on two walls – screens for the video and slides that will run 24/7 for 7 months (we’re making sure no one will ever want to leave this room!).
They were just half done arranging, but I was blown away when I walked in – and I live with this stuff. Just seeing the instruments in a different set up (more artistic, better lit) let me appreciate them anew (together with the other beauties loaned for this). People brand new to the world of harp guitars (visitors from NAMM offices upstairs, etc.) who peeked in were just floored.
The display bases were arranged and cleaned (they built a whole new case to accommodate the Gazzo and pedestal), and new plinth risers arrived as I was there. Pretty classy – I just hang ’em from a nail at home!
They (Phil, Dave, Mike) had only been at the instrument layout since the previous day, but almost finished final placing and mounting while I was there. So my timing was perfect. I stood behind Dave with a serious expression on my face, saying things like “Up two inches on the harp mandolin and a little to the left…” I’m certain they considered me indispensable. But honestly – I was able to put in my 2 cents and brainstorm on a few options and decisions; it was great fun with rewarding results. I did final touch up on the instruments – visuals, string tension, etc. and left them to start locking down and securing everything the next day. Soon, decorative touches, ephemera and signage will be added, and when the director (Carolyn) gives the final nod, the plexi panels go up. Yowza!
Here are some quick crude behind the scenes iPhone shots:
Display groupings were done one at a time so the cases and staging for 10-12 at a time was manageable.
Dave Liggett, gloved and taking a deep breath before we make him hold a ten-pound priceless instrument against the wall for twenty minutes (“…no, I changed my mind, more to the right…no, try….”)
I had seen all the loaner instruments except this one. Stunning. One of the most amazing string configurations I’ve ever seen – like those complex “hand string figures” we did with a partner when we were little.
I can’t spoil the surprise – but I can show you the shadow puppet version. They decided on angled front ceiling lighting with no down lighting. This creates wonderful shadows on the wall from all the unusual instrument shapes that are an art exhibit unto themselves! Harp guitar nerds should be able to I.D. these:
I’ve been urging the world at large for months now via blogs, FB, site, etc. that this year’s Harp Guitar Gathering is one simply not to be missed, and the location, exhibit, catalog, souvenirs, etc. represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (up until next May, if you can’t make the Gathering). But seeing it come together yesterday, I realized I’ve been underselling it. Yes, you’ll see all sorts of photos after mid-October, but it won’t remotely compare to being on site in the 3-dimensional harp guitar wonderland the museum staff (and I) have spent a year creating.
Fair warning: It’s 2 weeks away. If at all possible, come.