Labels + laminating

29 Nov 2017

Hi, I’m Sarah

I am a member of the Exhibition and Display Team and my varied role means that I’m lucky enough to work with people across the sector – curators, conservators, trainees, specialists from other museums, visitor services, contractors and of course the rest of my team. One of the best parts about my job is the sense of collaboration and communication. Ideas for exhibitions evolve through a process of research and elimination, until the concept is finalised. Then we can get started with practical production of labels, vinyl, plinths, handouts and many other things!

Please don’t think it’s a quick process, exhibitions start years in advance! Currently, we’re planning for 2018, 2019 and 2020 across Ipswich and Colchester, and working on Ipswich Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘YOU Are Here!’, the Colchester Castle ‘Collectors Case’ and ‘Small Things’ in Hollytrees.

For now, I’m going to show you the in-house production of labels and signage. 

When we have printed a label, it then goes through a machine we affectionately call ‘Duncan’. It laminates the paper with a sticky back, so we can apply it to foamboard, Foamex or straight to a wall or door. When attached to a portable surface like foam board, we cut using scalpels and rulers. The cutting mat has a grid on it, so we use this to ensure the labels have 90 degree corners. Small details are really important, like the labels being equal with the same colours, alignment, border sizes and thickness of foam board. All of these things aren’t immediately obvious when you walk into the exhibition, but they all help to pull the design together visually and show off the objects at their best.

 Apart from labels, we also create large panels that might provide an introduction to an exhibition or in depth information on an object. Then, away from the foam board and printing, we create vinyl. We can produce it in a variety of sizes, for text or a simple image. Often, we create large titles in vinyl, as the outcome is really sleek and contemporary. The vinyl cutter consists of two rollers that move the sheet backwards and forwards, so that the thin and delicate blade can move and cut out the shapes. You can see below the grey vinyl running through the cutter. It can be quite a noisy machine and we had several visitors wondering what an earth we were doing last week!



When the vinyl’s been cut, we need to remove the part we’re not using. We call this process weeding. You could think of this as positive and negative, and we take away the relevant part depending on the design. You can see here that we’ve removed the black vinyl around each letter revealing the text. Then we have to cover it with application film, which helps us to attach it on a wall or case when we’re on site. At each stage, we’re checking that it has cut properly, the spellings are correct and the dots on the ‘i’ are still there!

Here you can see vinyl on the case of ‘Bone Detectives’ in the Natural History Museum. It’s been used for the animal silhouettes and magnifying glass, and the labels are laminated and on foam board.

Well that’s me. I could go into more detail, but the best way to see our finished signage is to visit our exhibitions and have a look yourself!

Thanks for reading! Take care, Sarah


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