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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A curator's work is never done

….at least when it involves a fledgling start-up museum, however serious.

My initial curatorial duties on behalf of the Museum of the American Cocktail were to augment the temporary display area in the room designated for us on the second floor of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. I turned built in bookshelves into displays and filled low, Victorian-era display cases. I designed freestanding partitions to create more wall graphic display space and to make three areas out of one. I designed all of the graphic captioning that told the major story and I wrote the narrative sequence that WAS the story, 1806 to present. I wrote the scores of little captions that graced specific displays, and I oversaw the printing/cutting/mounting of all of this. I subdivided the real estate and created islands of information, like a timeline, and unpacked and arranged the hundreds of contributed artifacts into their respective areas.

All of this work occurred in December here in Los Angeles and between January 3rd and 12th in New Orleans where the planning and designing gave way to installation. The display is a sort of a preface. It is a temporary exhibit meant to raise awareness of the organization, to convince the Press that it was no silly joke - that the history and our treatment of it was a serious and consequential endeavor, to promote monetary contributions from spirits companies and the memberships of others, to augment seminars given under the Museum banner, and mainly, most urgently, to provide a taste of what might be accomplished given our own homeplace - a bit of real estate finagling needing to be scheduled before the end of September when we lose the space the Pharmacy Museum so kindly provided for us.

We believe we have now found such a space. While the specifics are under wraps as details are hammered out, contracts drawn up, and final negotiations completed, the museum board feels assured enough that it is time once again for me to go into design mode. Unlike the current display, there is no "repurposing" display cases and book shelves. All must be built anew to match the pristine restored space into which all will be installed. While this is additional work, it allows and presumes display areas suited perfectly to the story we are telling. The additional space allows us the luxury of instilling quite a bit more design drama to the presentation as well.

All of this begins Monday when I fly into New Orleans for three days to photograph, measure, and extrapolate the space and its potentials. I’ll be back there in August as an author for Southern Comfort’s Tales of the Cocktail, (a yearly event, also of three days, that celebrates the cocktail by importing those who are celebrated for writing about it - and giving the public access) and then at the end of September when all the artifacts must again be packed up, transported, and arranged in their new home. I’ll update everyone here as plans progress, and suggest checking out museumoftheamericancocktail.org occasionally for additional info.