The exhibition development process
Institutions and organizations such as museums are much like the proverbial iceberg. Most of the substance lies below the surface, hidden from view. Nearly all museums depend upon public use and approval to justify their places within society, so there is a real need for demonstration of the richness of those hidden depths. Exhibitions and programs are the principle public expressions of the heart of museums: the collections. The popular understanding of exhibitions does not recognize or appreciate the inner mechanisms required to prepare and present them. Like Athena leaping full-grown from the head of Zeus, there is a mythical quality to the ease with which exhibitions appear in public. However, as with any project, exhibitions require much planning and management to realize the end product. Over time, the sequence of events and efforts that produce public exhibitions has become established. The procedural elements in planning and executing any project are universal, regardless of the end product. The main difference between creating an exhibition and preparing a sales strategy or building an automobile is the mission of the organization undertaking the project. In commercial affairs, accomplishing tasks is a highly organized operation. The systematized approach used by businesses to manage their projects can be quite valuable if related to exhibition development. That is because any course of action with a product as its final goal is a project. As the process used in producing commercial products has proven to be effective, museums have adopted the methodology, and even the terminology, of business to describe the equivalent developmental steps in making exhibitions. Understanding the process is easier when outlined as a series of phases and subordinate stages. All projects, regardless of their beginning or intended outcome, share common traits. The time it takes to plan, develop, and execute the project is limited. Projects are cyclical. They have beginnings that arise from ideas generated from former activities, and after running their courses, they generate new approaches and ideas for future projects.