Museum exhibitions are familiar to most people. Treasures displayed for the enjoyment (and education) of the general public… isn’t that the best way for archaeologists to tell people about their work and their discoveries? (As a museum curator, I agree completely.) Here are different types of exhibitions you might find in a museum.
Permanent Collections/Permanent Galleries
Museums will display a portion of the fabulous collections entrusted in their care in their permanent galleries. Occasionally, famous works of art might be lent to other institutions or be removed from the galleries to undergo conservation treatment, but there is always something from a museum’s permanent collection on view somewhere in the building (even if your favourite piece is not always on display). The quality of a museum’s permanent collection makes its reputation. Visit your local museum and find out what they are famous for…
The masterpieces and artefacts presented in a temporary exhibition can be part of a museum’s collection that isn’t normally on display, but more often are part of a special collection from another museum or private collection, or represent a grouping of masterpieces from numerous museums gathered together under a specific theme. Temporary exhibitions are presented in a museum for a limited length of time (generally a few months) and are very popular because they are once-in-a-lifetime museum experiences.
A travelling exhibition will be presented at different museums within a country or around the world. Needless to say, a travelling exhibition is by default a temporary exhibition. Occasionally, museums undergoing renovations will organise a travelling exhibition of their artefacts and masterpieces so that they can be seen across the country even if the museum or the permanent galleries are closed.
Exhibition and Collection Catalogues
Artefacts presented in a permanent or temporary exhibition at a museum are often published in catalogues, books that show pictures and give a description of the objects. Theses catalogues can focus on an entire collection at the museum (systematic catalogue), illustrated a few masterpieces from various collections within a museum (collection handbook or catalogue of select works), or accompany a temporary exhibition and feature works in that special exhibition (exhibition catalogue). Those catalogues are beautifully illustrated with maps and coloured photographs and fun to read. Some people even collect them!