Sunday, November 22, 2009

Text writing and why it's painful...

Since getting back from Thailand, I've been spending my days writing text for the Hobart showcases. For those non-museum initiates, text means writing all the object labels, story panels, and introductory panels. You know, those little things in the showcase that say "This pot dates to 2500BCE, and demonstrates post-modernist and cubist tendencies" (Yes, I did actually see an object label that said that. It was in Peru, and it still makes me laugh - that potter must have had some hell of an ability to see the future...).

Anyway, text writing is painful for a range of reasons. When you've come into the development of a gallery this late, in some cases it's not particularly clear why certain objects were selected. And all the research about them is in ten different people's brains. So you basically have to start from scratch and hope you haven't missed a major point... And the problem then is that you have all this research stuck in your brain, and you want to use all of it. So you spend an hour constructing a 350 word slab of text describing the history of the object and the person who used it. And then you remember that the word limit for object labels is between 50 and 75 words, and you can't decide whether to scream or cry...

And sometimes...sometimes you really hope that you'll find implausible things in the course of doing that research. Like this week, when I was researching the conduct record for a convict named William Turner. I was desperately hoping that I'd find that he was transported for piracy. Or that he had a partner in crime named Jack Sparrow. Or that he married a girl named Elizabeth Swann. Not so much because I'm a giant nerd who loves Pirates of the Caribbean (which, let's face it, is true...), but because I desperately wanted to have an object label that read "This record contains details of the conduct of William Turner, who was transported to Van Diemen's Land for piracy. He was accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth Swann, and his associate, Jack Sparrow.". Okay, it was because I'm a giant nerd. Shut up.

Anyway, I got ridiculously excited during my research, because I found a newspaper article relating to his trial. And in it, I came across a sentence that read "The accused was tried for forging a cheque against the bank of Messrs. Sparrow & Co". I started jumping up and down in my chair, because I finally had a legitimate reason to include the name Sparrow in the object label. Unfortunately, when I read the article more carefully, I realised that it was the guy AFTER William Turner who was tried for forging a cheque against Messrs. Sparrow & Co. My guy? Convicted for life for forging a fiver against the Bank of England *sigh* So dull in comparison...

So unfortunately, Jack Sparrow will not be getting a mention in the Hobart showcases. But this week, I'll be finishing up Hobart and moving on to Melbourne. So maybe instead I can include a reference to some bloke named Robin while talking about John Batman... I'm also secretly hoping that John Batman had a servant named Alfred ;) Keep your fingers crossed for me!!

K xx

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