Designing for the Future: GW Museum Summer Institute

March 2013

What does it take to build a museum exhibit? A lot more effort than you might imagine. Registration is open for a summer institute in exhibition design that brings together graduate-level students and professionals to work as a team on the  design, fabrication, and installation of a “Coming Soon” exhibition to promote the new GW Museum

“Students will interact with museum professionals and gain real-life experience that goes beyond prototype classroom projects,” said Barbara Brennan, co-director of the institute. “This hands-on experience is critical to the learning process and will provide students with an installed exhibit for their portfolios, which is very important as they return to or embark upon their exhibit design careers.”

In advance of the 2014 opening of GW’s new museum complex (and the related Museum Conservation and Resource Center and Academic Incubation Facility in Ashburn), this teaser exhibit will introduce the Textile Museum, the Washingtoniana Collection, and the new conservation facility to numerous audiences. During the three-credit, multi-disciplinary institute, participants will write a label script, design the exhibit (to include graphic panels, display cases, and artifact labels), produce a detailed fabrication package, and assist in exhibit fabrication and installation. 

The course will meet twice weekly and include lectures, field trips to the Textile Museum and Smithsonian exhibit fabrication facility, and in-class lab time. Students will assume roles—designers, conservators, or content experts—according to their backgrounds.

“The institute will culminate in the exhibit’s installation on the Foggy Bottom Campus,” said Brennan. “Students will produce a professional-level drawing package with graphic and structural details of the exhibit, and they will participate in the fabrication and installation process.”

The GW Museum: A Collaborative Exhibit Design Program is one of four summer institutes offered by Columbian College. The others are:

For more information about summer institutes and other on-campus and online courses offered this summer, visit

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