Museology Master of Arts Program

October 25, 2017

Exhibit Installation at The Center for Wooden Boats

Samuel Howes, Museology class of 2019

Samuel Howes and Valerie Kendall (class of 2019) hanging signs at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

Samuel Howes and Valerie Kendall (class of 2019) hanging signs at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

The morning air was chill, and with hot coffee in hand, I looked over the docks at The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB). A few dinghies and keelboats were tied up and covered with canvas, lines creaking audibly as water lapped against the hulls. My work boots thudded across the gangplank, breaking up the morning’s stillness.

I was volunteering for the day to help install the Still Afloat: Historic Small Craft of King County exhibit at CWB. The lead and designer for this project was Amy Gorton, a contractor for CWB and Museum Manager at the Log House Museum in West Seattle. In addition to myself, we had two other volunteers: Valerie Kendall, a member of my cohort, and Mica Low, a second-year student focusing on exhibitions. Throughout our day we had volunteers (and two dogs) come in to check on our progress.

Samuel and Mica Low (class of 2018) applying vinyl lettering for the Still Afloat exhibit at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

Samuel and Mica Low (class of 2018) applying vinyl lettering for the “Still Afloat” exhibit at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

Our first task was measuring out space on the walls to hang PVC display boards. Regular gaps between each sign made positioning efficient and left a cohesive looking end result. As we quickly learned from Amy, a center height of 5 feet for the signs was perfect for all visitors to see. However, getting accurate levels proved to be a challenge because our space was actually floating on the water, as the exhibition is located in CWB’s Floating Boathouse. Using a combination of green Frog Tape and VHB Tape, we were able to hang our signs in the space, a combination we learned would hold strong and minimized the risk of damaging the walls.

After hanging the signs and taking a brief lunch, we started positioning vinyl lettering. The vinyl letters were bright orange and four inches high, so we were confident that visitors (and probably the Coast Guard) would be able to read them from anywhere. Since they came in long rolls and were already printed in order, all we had to decide was how to cut them up so they’d fit on the wall space we had. Teamwork was essential, as positioning and taping up the lines required multiple sets of hands and eyes. After that, it was just a matter of peeling and cutting off a section of backing, adhering a few letters at a time, and slowly moving down the line.

The finished "Still Afloat" exhibit at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

The finished “Still Afloat” exhibit at CWB. Photo courtesy of Amy Gorton.

Overall, this was a great experience. Sore arms and my day off of classes was an easy price to pay: I learned to work with vinyl and acquired a new mounting technique for walls, and I got to know some more museum colleagues working with Amy and the other volunteers. The exhibit features four historic wooden boat designs. Two of these are currently available to rent through CWB’s Livery, while the other two are being preserved in dry storage for future generations.  The exhibit is now open to the public, and is absolutely worth the trip.