What Makes a Great Exhibition? by Paula Marincola

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: This book is a collection of essays by a myriad of professionals in the field, selected and edited by Paula Marincola of the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. As a student of Museum and Curatorial Studies, it caught my eye at the bookstore, and surely enough, less than a month later, in class, we started studying a couple of the essays included.

Theoretically, the essays attempt to tackle the extremely vague and open question that lends itself to the title of the book, and in order to do so, the editor sent a list of questions to the contributors for them to work as they saw fit (this list is available to the reader in the form of a bookmark, besides being part of the cover’s original design). However, I found that a lot of the essays didn’t actually attempt to answer that question, and instead explored other themes related to curating; that wasn’t a problem to me, since they were still interesting and informative, it just feels a bit strange to be told that the book will be something and then find out it’s different (if only slightly).

The essays themselves were of mixed relevance and quality. A few of them were in need of revision, with errors in grammar and phrase construction (English isn’t my first language and yet I still noticed them), but overall the quality was excellent, and a few of them explored issues and details of exhibition making that I haven’t seen explored elsewhere. Ingrid Schaffner’s essay on wall text, and Robert Storr’s “Show and Tell”, were particularly useful.

A great resource for students and professionals.

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