Exhibit Resource List

The Great Big Museum Exhibit Resource List

The idea for this list started with Kathy Krafft as part of a conference presentation she gave several years ago. Shortly after, I offered to host the initial collection of sources on my website. Over time, the list expanded with my input and that of the late David Taylor, and was included in the "Handbook for Small Science Centers" book. Now, the Great Big Exhibit Resource List has become a way to keep track of "trusted sources" for museum exhibit designers, developers and fabricators, and is freely shared with colleagues. The GBER List continues to expand with input from museum "makers" from around the world. If you have additions, corrections, or comments, please send them to: paul@orselli.net and help this resource grow!


1. Visit your local stores, and set up accounts; you may get contractor’s rates.

Check out plumbing and electrical and hardware and lumber and paint supply stores. Sometimes places like plumbing supply stores will let you behind the counters to look in their bins. Most stores are very supportive of local non-profit organizations, and enjoy the challenges of helping you when you are doing weird things in building exhibits.

2. Find out when it is quiet to get extra suggestions—not first thing in the morning when contractors are getting the parts they need for the day.

3. Never categorize or stereotype your stores—in exhibit fabrication you may well find what you need at strange, unexpected places. So visit, and see what is in stock at auto supply places (12 volt fans for your hand-powered generator, for instance) floor covering, fabric stores, office supply places, etc.


(If you don’t have these catalogs, get them! These suppliers have local branches throughout the country. Check the phone book or the website to locate your nearest outlet. Note: Addresses and telephone numbers often change! Use websites to confirm contact information.)

McMaster-Carr: www.mcmaster.com 3500 pages of hardware, plumbing (including clear PVC pipe and fittings), electrical, materials (metal, plastics, etc. delivered the next day usually. AMAZING collection.

Grainger: www.grainger.com

MSC: www.mscdirect.com



Enabling Devices: www.enablingdevices.com
385 Warburton Avenue
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
(800) 832-8697

Flaghouse: www.flaghouse.com
601 FlagHouse Drive
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604
(800) 793-7900

Maxi-Aids: www.maxiaids.com
42 Executive Blvd.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(800) 522-6294

Patterson Medical: www.sammonspreston.com
4 Sammons Court
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
(630) 226-1300

Special Needs Toys: www.specialneedstoys.com/usa/
4537 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA15044
(800) 467-6222



Perma-Bound: www.perma-bound.com
617 E.Vandalia Road,
Jacksonville, Illinois 62650
(800) 637-6581

San Val Incorporated: www.sanval.com
895 Frisco Street
Steelville, MO 65565
(800) 325-4465



Cole-Palmer: www.coleparmer.com
625 East Bunker Court
Vernon Hills, Illinois 60061
(800) 323-4340

Fisher: www.fisherscientific.com
Liberty Lane
Hampton, NH 03842
(603) 926-5911

Flinn Scientific: www.flinnsci.com
P.O. Box 219
Batavia, IL 60510
(800) 452-1261

Sargent-Welch: www.sargentwelch.com
P.O. Box 5229
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
(800) 727-4368

Sigma-Aldrich: Unusual chemicals.



BrightSign: Digital signage solutions
12980 Saratoga Ave., Ste. D
Saratoga, CA 95070
(408) 852-9263

Eletech Electronics: www.eletech.com
16025 Kaplan Avenue
City of Industry, CA 91744

Stop & Listen: www.stoplisten.com
7515 Flint Road S.E.
Calgary, Alberta CANADA T2H 1G3
(800) 387-2365

Technovision - Custom sensors and controllers. www.technovision.com
933 Canada Ct.
City of Industry, CA 91748
(626) 839-1488



Beyond Digital Print: www.beyonddigitalprint.com
6401 E. Rogers Circle
Boca Raton, FL
(561) 922-5250

Can Stock Photography: www.canstockphoto.com

Display Creatives: Pop-Up Displays and printing. www.displaycreatives.com

Fotosearch Stock Photography: www.fotosearch.com
21155 Watertown Road
Waukesha, WI 53186
(262) 717-0740 (800)827-3920
(Also check out the sister site, www.gograph.com)

Getty Images: www.Gettyimages.com

MegaPrint: Large format print specialists www.megaprint.com

MorgueFile: www.morguefile.com Free images for your use in your creative work.

MVP Visuals: www.mvpvisuals.com
Suppliers of high-impact visuals and custom branded displays.

The Public Domain Project: www.pond5.com Completely free public domain images and videos

Stella Color: www.stellacolor.com Sustainable Printing Solutions

Stockphoto.com: www.istockphoto.com

Shutterstock: www.shutterstock.com

Videvo: https://www.videvo.net/ Creative Commons stock video, motion graphics, music and sound effects.

Walsworth Printing and Publishing: www.walsworth.com
Printers of custom books and periodicals.



(Visit your local schools- they have lots of catalogs!)

Acorn Naturalists: www.acornnaturalists.com
Good source of animal footprints and casts, plus lots of other biology and botany stuff.

Childcraft: www.childcrafteducation.com
P.O. Box 3239
Lancaster, PA 17604
(800) 631-5652

Creative Health Products: www.chponline.com Weight scales, other health products.
5148 Saddle Ridge Road
Plymouth, MI 48170
(800) 742-4478

Discount School Supply www.discountschoolsupply.com

Educational Innovations: www.teachersource.com
362 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 229-0730

Edmund Scientific: www.scientificsonline.com Magnets, polarizing sheet, all kinds of science stuff.

Edmund Industrial Optics: www.edmundoptics.com lenses, optical parts.

Haba: www.habausa.com

hand2mind: www.hand2mind.com/ Math manipulatives, posters.
500 Greenview Court
Vernon Hills, IL 60061

Health Edco: www.healthedco.com

Lakeshore: www.lakeshorelearning.com Early childhood materials.

Skulls Unlimited: www.skullsunlimited.com All things bone related.
10313 South Sunnylane
Oklahoma City, OK 73160
(800) 659-7585 (SKULL)

Woodworks Ltd: www.craftparts.com
4521 Anderson Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76117
(817) 581-5230



Adafruit Industries: www.adafruit.com
80 Nassau Street, #4C
New York, NY 10038
(646) 248-7882

Allied: www.alliedelec.com
7410 Pebble Drive
Fort Worth, Texas 76118

Anatek: www.anatekcorp.com Video and TV related electronics.
P.O. Box 1200
100 Merrimack Road
Amherst, NH 03031

BG Micro: www.bgmicro.com
3024 Lincoln Ct
Garland, Texas 75041
(800) 276-2206

Digi-key: www.digikey.com
River Falls, MN 56

Happ Controls: www.happcontrols.com Pushbuttons, pinball accessories, etc.
106 Garlisch Drive
Elk Grove, IL 60007
(888) BUY-HAPP

Hosfelt Electronics: www.hosfelt.com
2700 Sunset Blvd.
Steubenville, OH 43952
(888) 264-6464

Jameco: www.jameco.com
1355 Shoreway Road
Belmont, CA 94002
(800) 831-4242

MakerSHED: www.makershed.com DIY Kits + Tools + Books + Fun from the MAKE Magazine folks

Mouser: www.mouser.com
1000 North Main Street
Mansfield, Texas 76063
(800) 346-6873

Newark: www.newark.com
4801 N. Ravenswood
Chicago, IL 60640-4496
(773) 784-5100

Radio Shack: www.radioshack.com

Ramsey Electronics: www.ramseyelectronics.com
Good source of electronics kits that can be turned into exhibits.
590 Fishers Station Dr.
Victor, NY 14564
(800) 446-2295

Solid State Advanced Controls: www.ssac.com
Sometimes the only source for hard-to find electronic timers and other modules that do switching, current measuring, etc. generally for 120VAC circuits.

SparkFun Electronics: www.sparkfun.com
6175 Longbow Drive
Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 284-0979

String Pots: www.stringpot.com
String Potentiometers = Potentiometer + Spring-Loaded Pulley.

Supercircuits: www.supercircuits.com Video and security equipment.
One Supercircuits Plaza
Liberty Hill, Texas 78642

Tapeswitch: www.tapeswitch.com
100 Schmitt Boulevard
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(631) 630-0442



SketchUp: www.sketchup.com Excellent free rendering program.



80/20 Inc: www.8020.net "The Industrial Erector Set"
1701 South 400 East
Columbia City, IN 46725
(260) 248-8030

FlexPVC: www.flexpvc.com Amazing array of PVC shapes and fittings.

MayTec: www.maytecinc.com
901 Wesemann Drive
West Dundee, IL 60118
(847) 429-0321

MicroRAX: www.microrax.com Miniature extruded aluminum t-slot framing
Twintec, Inc.
1510 Boundary Blvd., Suite 100
Auburn, WA 98001
(800) 979-9645

Octanorm: www.octanormusa.com
701 Interstate West Parkway
Lithia Springs, GA 30122
(800) 995-2995

Parker’s Industrial Profile Systems: https://bit.ly/e8RBYm
6035 Parkland Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44124
(216) 896-3000



Fake-Foods.com: www.fake-foods.com
204 North El Camino Real, #432
Encinitas, CA 92024

Hubert: www.hubert.com Display supplies.

Humphrey's Farm: https://www.humphreysfarm.com/ Wholesale resource for artificial display foods and drinks.

Iwasaki Images: www.iwasaki-images.com
630 Maple Ave.
Torrance, CA 90503
(800) 323-9921

Forbex: www.forbex.com Fake grass.

(Childcraft also sells inexpensive collections of fake foods.)



Aircraft Spruce & Specialty: www.aircraft-spruce.com
Fiberglass supplies, Kevlar, aviation instruments, the entire world of aviation fasteners.

Fiberglass Coatings: www.fgci.com (in St. Petersburg, FL) A great source for
fiberglassing supplies, casting resins, and knowledge.

3201 28th Street N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 327-8117

Fibre Glast: www.fibreglast.com
95 Mosier Pkwy Brookville, OH 45309

Polytek: www.polytek.com Rubber moldmaking supplies, casting materials.



Carpet One (formerly Lees Carpets): https://www.carpetone.com/exclusive-brands/lees
Many sustainable flooring choices. NeoFloor is especially good for children’s areas.

Gerbert Limited: www.gerbertltd.com Recycled flooring materials.

715 Fountain Ave.
P.O. Box 4944
Lancaster, PA 17604-4944
(800) 828-9461

Pirelli Flooring: www.artigo.com Interesting flooring products.



Get Smart Products: www.pfile.com
Super cheap frames!

IKEA: www.ikea.com
It’s hard to find more attractive and inexpensive frames than those from IKEA.

Light Impressions: www.lightimpressionsdirect.com
P.O. Box 787
Brea, CA 92822
(800) 828-6216

Pictureframes.com: www.pictureframes.com
2103 Brentwood Street
High Point, NC 27263
(800) 332-8884



ATD-AMERICAN: www.atd.com
135 Greenwood Ave.
Wyncote, PA 19095
(215) 576-1000

Community Playthings: www.communityplaythings.com
PO Box 2
Ulster Park NY 12487
(800) 777-4244

Custom Educational Furnishings: http://www.cefinc.com/ Furniture for Maker Spaces.
2696 NC Hwy. 16S
Taylorsville, NC 28681
(800) 255-9189

DEMCO: www.demco.com
P.O. Box 7488
Madison, WI 53707
(800) 962-4463

Frog Furnishings: https://frogfurnishings.com/
15285 S. Keeler St.
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 764-8181

Gaylord Library Supplies: www.gaylord.com
Kid-sized furniture.
(800) 448-6160

Mockett: www.mockett.com
Hardware, pulls, wire grommets.

Smith System: www.smithsystem.com
PO Box 860415
Plano, Texas 75086
(800) 328-1061

Worthington Direct: www.worthingtondirect.com
6301 Gaston Ave., Suite 670
Dallas, TX 75214
(800) 599-6636



Atlanta Belting: www.atlbelt.com Conveyor belt-- smooth, textured.

Bearings and Industrial Supply Co.: www.bearingsandindustrialsupply.com
WM Berg: www.wmberg.com
499 Ocean Avenue
East Rockaway, NY 11518

Boston Gear: www.bostongear.com
14 Hayward Street
Quincy, MA 02171
(888) 999-9860



ABET Laminati: www.abetlaminati.com Lumiphos laminate material.

Educational Innovations: www.teachersource.com Check out their glow-in-the-dark pigments.
362 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 229-0730

Flinn Scientific: www.flinnsci.com Small sheets and paint.
P.O. Box 219
Batavia, IL 60510
(800) 452-1261

Glow Inc: www.glowinc.com

Hanovia: www.hanovia-uv.com
6 Evans Street
Fairfield, NJ 07083
(973) 651-5510

Jessup Manufacturing: www.globritesystem.com
2815 West Route 120
McHenry, IL 60051
(815) 385-6650

Shannon Luminous Materials: www.blacklite.com
304 A North Townsend
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(800) 543-4485



Divnik International: www.SpiralWishingWells.com
321 Alexandersville Road
Miamisburg, Ohio 45342
(937) 384-0003



Build it Green: www.builditgreen.org

Environmental Home Store: www.environmentalhomestore.com
The Environmental Home Store
550 Carpenter Lane at Greene Street
Philadelphia, PA 19119
(215) 844-GREEN

Green Exhibits: www.greenexhibits.org

Center for Neighborhood Technology, Green building resources:

Yemm & Hart: www.yemmhart.com Recycled building materials.
1417 Madison
Marquand, MO 63655
(573) 783-5434



Ballew Saw: www.ballewsaw.com/ Sharpens saw blades, sells blades and bits.
325 S. Kimbrough
Springfield, MO 65806
(800) 288-7483

Carbide.com: www.carbide.com Router bits, etc.

CherryTree: www.cherrytreetoys.com Wood balls and other wooden parts.
Cherry Tree Toys
12446 W State Road 81
Beloit, WI 53511

Citimarine: www.citimarinestore.com Marine accessories and hardware.
3300 NW 112th Ave, #4
Doral, FL 33172
(800) 766-5256

Enco Tools: www.use-enco.com Tools, general selection & large tools.

Fastenal: www.fastenal.com Industrial and construction supplies.
2001 Theurer Blvd.
Winona, Minnesota 55987
(507) 454-5374

FastCap: www.fastcap.com Check out "speed tape".

Grizzly: www.grizzly.com Large and small tools, bits, supplies, wood samples.

Hafele: www.hafele.com
Huge assortment of hardware for furniture making.

Harbor Freight: www.harborfreight.com
Inexpensive tools ,variable quality on some brands.

JC Whitney: www.jcwhitney.com Automotive supplies.

Klingspor: www.klingspor.com
Woodworking: sandpaper in bulk (belts, drums, disks, sheets.)

Lee Valley: www.leevalley.com Woodworking tools, also cheap source for small neodymium magnets.
P.O. Box 1780
Ogdensburg, NY 13669
(800) 871-8158

Lehman’s: www.lehmans.com Old time tools, blacksmithing supplies.
One Lehman Circle
P.O. Box 321
Kidron, OH 44636
(888) 438-5346

Marv-O-Lus Manufacturing: www.marvolus.com
220 North Washtenaw Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612-2014
(888) 840-4311

Northern Tools: www.NorthernTool.com
2800 Southcross Drive West
Burnsville, Minnesota 55306
(800) 221-0516

Roberts Plywood: www.roberts-plywood.com Curved plywood, large wooden tubes.

SawsHub.com: www,sawshub.com/ Great hardware site with tool reviews and DIY projects.

Southco: www.southco.com Latches, cabinet hardware.

Tool Parts Direct: www.toolpartsdirect.com Parts for tools- with diagrams for identifying the part!
6620 F Street
Omaha, NE 68117
(866) 597-3850

West Marine: www.westmarine.com Marine supplies.

Woodcraft: www.woodcraft.com Tools and supplies.
(800) 535-4482

Woodworker's Supply: www.woodworker.com



Bulbs.com: www.bulbs.com
40 Jackson Street
Worcester, MA 01608
(888) 455-2800

Bulbman: www.bulbman.com

Interlight: www.interlight.biz
7939 New Jersey Avenue
Hammond, IN 46323
(800) 743-0005

Topbulb: www.topbulb.com
5204 Indianapolis Boulevard
East Chicago, IN 46312
(866) TOP-BULB

UV SYSTEMS: www.uvsystems.com A great source for UV lighting and components.
16605 127th Avenue SE
Renton, WA 98058-5549



Adams Magnetic: www.adamsmagnetic.com

Kling Magnetics: www.kling.com Magnetic Paint.
343 Rt. 295 - PO Box 348
Chatham, NY 12037
(518) 392-4000

Force Field: www.wondermagnet.com
2606 West Vine Dr.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(877) 944-6247



McNichols: www.mcnichols.com Perforated sheet metal, steel grating.
5505 West Gray Street
Tampa, FL 33609-1007
(813) 282-3828 x 2100

Murphy-Nolan: www.murphynolan.com

OnlineMetals.com: www.onlinemetals.com Stocks and sells a variety of metals; including small orders
1138 W. Ewing Street
Seattle, WA 98119
(800) 704-2157



Archie McPhee / Accoutrements: www.mcphee.com Wacky products!
2428 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 297-0240

Bry-Tech Distributors: www.bry-tech.com Upholstery Materials & Supplies
1143 Haines Street
Jacksonville, FL 32206
(800) 329-7283

Company Folders, Inc. www.companyfolders.com Folders and Presentation Materials
22 West Huron Street, Suite 203
Pontiac, Michigan 48342
(248) 738-7600

Displays 2 Go: www.displays2go.com Small sign holders, stands, displays.
55 Broad Common Road
Bristol, RI 02809
(800) 572-2194

Ecospheres: www.eco-sphere.com Self-contained ecosystem spheres.
4421 N. Romero Rd
Tucson, Arizona 85705
(800) 729-9870

Fake Earth: www.polypavement.com

Freund Cans: www.freundcontainer.com Containers of all sorts.
11535 S. Central Avenue
Alsip, IL 60803

JML Direct Optics: www.jmloptical.com Parabolic mirrors.
76 Fernwood Ave.
Rochester, NY 14621
(585) 342-8900

Library of Congress: American Environmental Photographs

Light Stick (LED) Art: www.subliminaryartworks.com
Bill Bell
139 Davis Ave
Brookline MA 02445
(617) 277-4719

Lilliput Play Homes: https://www.lilliputplayhomes.com/
Miniature playhouses, stores, doctor offices, etc. Including related accessories.
6114 Brownsville Rd. Ext.
Finleyville, PA 15332
(724) 348-7071

MJS Packaging www.mjspackaging.com/ All sorts of bottles and jars.
31700 Middlebelt Rd., Suite 165
Farmington Hills, MI 48334

Oriental Trading Company: www.orientaltrading.com Cheap multiples. Craft and party items.

PilotVials.com www.Pilotvials.com Clear and amber glass vials, plastic jars for all your packaging needs.
2965 Valley Vista Drive
Sedona, AZ 86351
(928) 254-0533

Radiant Manufacturing www.radiantmfg.com Giant Sequins and "flutter discs" for Air Cannon exhibits.
(877) 787-8880

Rhode Island Novelty: www.rinovelty.com
19 Industrial Lane
Johnston, RI 02919
(800) 528-5599

Sand & Solutions: www.waupacasand.com
Rubber mulch. (For clean “sandboxes” and playgrounds.)
(715) 258-8566

Scent Machines: www.scentair.com

SPI Plastics: https://www.spiplastics.com Plastic indoor play and outdoor playground items, including slides.

Stella Color: www.stellacolor.com Images on carpet; interesting mural wallpaper.

Strapworks: www.strapworks.com
All kinds of webbing, strapping ropes, etc.
3170 Elmira Rd.
Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 741-0658

Toysmith: www.toysmith.com

Ultrasonic Mistmakers/Fog Makers: http://mainlandmart.com/
2535 Durfee Ave.
El Monte, CA 91732
(626) 258-2928

U.S. Government Surplus: www.usa.gov/state-surplus-sales
Surplus sales by State.



AIN Plastics: www.ainplastics.com

Curbell Plastic: www.curbell.com
7 Cobham Drive
Orchard Park, NY 14127
(716) 667-3377

Outwater Plastics: www.outwater.com
Weird architectural stuff, tee molding in all sizes and shapes and colors, etc.
4 Passaic Street, Wood-Ridge, N.J. 07075
1-888-OUTWATER (688-9283)

shopPOPdisplays: www.shopPOPdisplays.com
Speciality acrylic boxes (including 5-sided boxes) and POP display materials.

United States Plastic: www.usplastic.com
Lots of plumbing parts, tubing.
1390 Neubrecht Rd.
Lima, Ohio 45801-3196



MSDS on line: www.msdssearch.com

Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety: www.artscraftstheatersafety.org



Acorn Naturalists: www.acornnaturalists.com
Good source of animal footprints and casts, plus lots of other biology and botany stuff.

American 3B Scientific: www.a3bs.com
2189 Flintstone Drive, Unit O
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 492-9111

Arbor Scientific: www.arborsci.com
PO Box 2750
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
(800) 367-6695

Ben Meadows: www.benmeadows.com Forestry/Outdoors supplies, surveying equipment
P.O. Box 5277
Janesville WI USA 53547
(800) 241-6401

C&A Scientific: www.cnascientific.com
7241 Gabe Court
Manassas, VA 20109
(703) 330-1413

Carolina Biological: www.carolina.com Microscope slides, fruit flies and
other critters, lots more.

Copernicus Toys: www.copernicustoys.com
1012 C Druid Ave
Charlottesville VA 22902
(800) 424-3950

Indigo Instruments: www.indigoinstruments.com/ An eclectic range of science supplies including molecular models, insect pins, and custom-imprinted lab glassware.
(877) 746-4764

Kelvin Scientific: www.kelvin.com
280 Adams Blvd.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(800) 535-8469

NASCO: www.enasco.com A site for multiple supply catalogs.

PASCO: www.pasco.com Excellent physics supplies and materials.
10101 Foothills Blvd.
Roseville, CA 95747
(800) 772-8700

Pitsco: www.pitsco.com Kits, meters, etc.
915 E. Jefferson
P.O. Box 1708
Pittsburg, KS 66762
(800) 835-0686

Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories: www.sciencekit.com

Steve Spangler Science: www.stevespanglerscience.com
4400 South Federal Blvd
Englewood, CO 80110
(800) 223-9080

Ward’s Natural Science: www.wardsci.com
PO Box 92912
Rochester, NY 14692
(800) 962-2660



Bowman Displays: www.bowmandisplays.com
648 Progress Avenue
Munster, IN 46321
(800) 922-9250

Dick Blick: www.dickblick.com
P.O. Box 1267
Galesburg, IL 61402
(800) 828-4548

Warwick Products Company: www.warwickproducts.com Store fixtures, displays.



American Science and Surplus: www.sciplus.com Weird collection of small parts.
P.O. Box 1030
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 647-0011

Herbach and Rademan (H&R): www.herbach.com Cheap motors, blowers, power supplies etc.
353 Crider Avenue
Moorestown, NJ 08057
(800) 848-8001

Surplus Shed: www.surplusshed.com
1050 Maidencreek Road
Fleetwood, PA 19522
(877) 7-SURPLUS



Ahh.biz: www.ahh.biz Specialized Textile Outfitters.
American Home & Habitat
Route 4, Box 86
Squires, MO 65755
(417) 683-1838

Dazian Fabrics: www.dazian.com Theatrical and Outdoor Fabrics

Fred Krieger Fabrics: www.fredkriegerfabrics.com
420 Jericho Turnpike
Jericho, NY 11753
(800) 892-8142
Pro Sound & Stage Lighting: www.pssl.com Audio, video, party lights.
11070 Valley View Street
Cypress, CA. 90630

Rosco: www.rosco.com Specialized lighting fixtures and gels (colored mylar sheets), hardware.

Rose Brand: www.rosebrand.com Theatrical Supplies

Sam Ash: www.samash.com Musical Instruments, Sound equipment.
(800) 4-SAMASH

Seattle Fabrics: www.seattlefabrics.com Theatrical and Outdoor Fabrics
Seattle, WA. 98103
(206) 525-0670

Sew What?: www.sewwhatinc.com Custom-sewn theatrical drapes and fabrics
1978 Gladwick Street
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220
(310) 639-6000

ExhibiTricks blog

  • Cool Design Tool: WhatTheFont

    Have you ever seen an interesting font on a product package or in an advertisement and wondered, "What is that font?"

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    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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    Here's the information from Kathy:

    I hope you are all weathering these stormy times and still finding moments of joy and beauty. We all knew change was inevitable, and at times, even welcome. But whoa!! What a ride!!

    In the spirit of change, I am now selling directly several of my books that were carried by the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).  ASTC published and distributed the books until they closed their Publications Department and sent all the remaining copies to me. 

    I have decided to sell them for $25.00 each, which is less than the original cost, and that price includes shipping within the U.S.  Wendy Pollock, my wonderful partner in these publishing projects -- my editor, co-author, and co-editor, supports this new direction as well.

    All of the proceeds from the sale of these books will go to the Museum Crisis Center in Ukraine or World Central Kitchen in Ukraine.

    You can get more information about ordering the books from me by emailing: kmclean@ind-x.org

    The three available books are:
    Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions
    A best-seller for ASTC’s Publications Department, and still relevant for all types of museums today. This book has been the core textbook for many Museum Studies programs over the years.


    The Convivial Museum
    Co-authored with Wendy Pollock, this book is even more important in today’s fractured and mixed-up world.

    Visitor Voices in Museum Exhibitions
    Co-edited with Wendy Pollock, this book is one of the first to provide a broad set of examples of participatory and co-created elements in museum exhibitions.

    Contact Kathy NOW at kmclean@ind-x.org to get the remaining copies while they last!

    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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  • Museum/Exhibit/Design Inspiration: Water + Video?

    I'm working on some water exhibits now and I'm pondering ways to let visitors play with water and video systems to create and capture images like the one at the top of this post.  (Check out this short YouTube video for more cool images ... )  

    Of course, the pioneering strobe photography work of "Doc" Edgerton at MIT created iconic images like the milk drop corona below, but these images were often the result of painstaking laboratory set-ups and equipment, not something for visitors to play with and manipulate.

    Aside from the classic "Stop the Drop" or "Double Piddler" exhibits where visitors can control a strobe system pointed at streams of water, what other open-ended exhibit opportunities have you seen or experienced combining video (or other imaging techniques) and water (or other fluids)?  

    Share your ideas in the Comments section below!

    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Drawing the Curtain: Making a Child-Friendly Exhibit in an Art Museum

    Margaret Middleton was kind enough to share some thoughts with ExhibiTricks readers about their latest project in this Guest Post below.

    I just finished working on a new temporary exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Ballet & Opera. The exhibition team wanted to make sure the exhibit was welcoming for families with children since most visitors would know Sendak as the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are. As the exhibit designer on the project, I brought my experience in children’s museums, and together we created something new for the Museum. Here’s a little summary of what we did to make this exhibit work for visitors of all ages.

    In order to appreciate the departure that Drawing the Curtain represents for the Museum, you may need some context: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, founded in Boston in 1903, is set in a Venetian-style palazzo with grand rooms packed with art and a wondrous garden in the center courtyard and in 1990 it was the site of the biggest art heist in modern history. In addition to being known for beauty and scandal, the Gardner is also known for being traditional. I remember visiting as a child and finding it magical -- if a little forbidding. Galleries silent, no photos allowed. I remember being afraid of the guards after one scolded me. That cold climate began changing when they built a new wing with a performance space and a temporary exhibit gallery. It’s a much friendlier visit than the one I remember as a child. Having seen this transformation firsthand, I am particularly excited to have helped create the Museum’s first exhibit that explicitly welcomes families with children.

    Here are three qualities that make this exhibit unique:

    1. Lower hang-height 

    The exhibition is hung at 48” on center instead of the typical 60”, providing better visual access for older children and other people under 5’ tall. This also is a more comfortable viewing height for wheelchair users. We also included a few step stools in the gallery in case anyone needed an extra boost.

    2.  Family labels and large type 

    Family labels offer prompts with questions to help adults and children engage with the artwork together. I used larger type for exhibit labels to make them easier to read. Large type also means that most visitors don’t have to be very close to the label to read it so they can glance at the artwork while they read, or they can read together with another visitor. Most label copy in the exhibit is 48 or 30 point and the smallest type is 16 point. To get a feel for the sizes and heights, I like to print labels out on my printer and tape them up on a wall at home.

    3. Things to do 

    Along the back wall of the exhibit is a dedicated area especially for children. There is a stage where children can dance next to a real costume from the Nutcracker and a reading area with cozy seating where families can curl up with a favorite Sendak title. These are themed environments but they are not superficial: these spaces have real exhibition artwork in them like the rest of the gallery and engage with the exhibit content in relevant, age-appropriate ways. By integrating this space in the gallery instead of as a separate room, the exhibit communicates a sense of welcome for both children and adults.

    The exhibition is currently on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and runs until September 11, 2022. Please go and check it out and let me know what you think. 

    Special thanks to 42 Design/Fab Studio for their excellent fabrication work on this project.

    For more reading on creating inclusive museum environments for children, check out Margaret’s chapter in Welcoming Young Children Into the Museum

    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Exhibit Aphorisms Too (and a GIVEAWAY!)

    Harry White has recently introduced his second card deck of exhibit aphorisms and was kind enough to share some thoughts about "Aphorisms Too" with ExhibiTricks readers.

    What are exhibit aphorisms and what are they for?
    In 1996 Techniquest started the UK’s first Master’s course in Science Communication based in a Science Centre.  It was a great success with students from all around the world, and graduates were quickly snapped up by science centres.  I taught the Exhibit Development module but, after a year of PowerPointing the students into submission, I felt that it just wasn’t appropriate to teach a degree about informal education, formally.  

    “Power corrupts, PowerPoint corrupts absolutely”

    Also, whenever I ran out of material for a session, just saying something deliberately controversial would start a debate that would fill the time and engage the students.  So, I started collecting these quotations, jokes, and provocations as aphorisms and put 52 of the best/most annoying onto a deck of cards.  When the sessions flagged, I’d ask someone to pick a card, read it out and then the group would try and fathom what I was getting at.  Most times a heated debate would ensue and my session would go like a charm.

    More recently I have used them in consulting with developing science centres around the world. In this circumstance, I started adding quotations from other people in the industry and this has extended the repertoire considerably. But as many of these are well known I have kept them to a minimum of essential ones in the card deck. 

    The idea of an Aphorism is to put some core truth in a memorably flippant way so that people who are “in the know” recognise it and those who don’t, think about it.  As an instructional tool, this has a fatal flaw in that anyone who “gets” it doesn’t need it, and those that need it, don’t get it. 

    But aphorisms are memorable and anti-intuitive, a bit like a good exhibit.

    Also, an omitted Aphorism is that:

     “As soon as you print a pack of Aphorism Cards, lots of new, better, more meaningful Aphorisms will be found”

    After printing 3 batches of the original Aphorisms card deck, I realised that with 900 packs in circulation, someone must be taking it seriously, or there are a vast number of wobbly desks needing something under one leg out there. So, I felt that I should make some minor corrections for this batch. For instance, originally the Joker Aphorism was: 

    “A Consultant is a man who borrows your watch and then charges to tell you the time” 

    and I was that man! But in reality, there are plenty of consultants of both genders and so now I am an equal opportunities insulter. 

    The first pack of Aphorisms drew from a long list, built up over many years, and naturally I included the ones that I thought were best. In the time since the first "Exhibit Aphorisms" deck was published, I collected even more aphorisms. I did consider combining the first set with the newly collected ones but then which would I leave out? And so, I embarked on the second card set, "Aphorisms Too."

    And so, this second batch of “quotations, jokes, and provocations” is perhaps a little less flippant, but it does still try and look at Science Centre life with humour. It is less focused on exhibits than the previous set, reflecting my developing practice in the creation of Science Centres and Children’s Museums over the intervening years.

    Here are a few examples from the Aphorisms Too deck with commentary:

    Ace of Spades
    Pizzey’s Pint Index of Exhibit Excellence 

    1 to 3 pints
    Standard to good ideas 

    3 to 8 pints
    Great ideas that could change the world 

    Over 8 pints 
    Brilliant ideas that definitely will change the world, if you can remember what they were. 

    I remember meeting Steve in a pub near the Science Museum in London and after a very productive exhibit brainstorm we came up with this aphorism and I wrote it in my notebook. Many years later when I was putting this second batch of Aphorisms together, I asked Steve if he minded if I used this and attributed it to him. He didn’t remember the Aphorism at all, which by applying “Pizzey’s Pint Index of Exhibit Excellence” recursively means it must be a really great Aphorism.

    There is another, less relevant, anecdote about this “exhibit ideas” session. Steve and I had both been to a pitching session for a new gallery at the Science Museum and as we were leaving Steve wanted to show me his latest toy, a GPS device, which in these pre-smartphone days was pretty cutting-edge stuff. “Look and type in "Pubs Nearby" and immediately it shows me the nearest. So, we set off for the “Hoop and Toy” following the directions from Steve’s device. I expressed my admiration for the technology and Steve said, ”But you haven’t heard the best bit yet! In order to get all the pubs programmed into the device, you have to visit each one and register its location.” You have to go on a pub crawl to enable future pub crawls!

    Ace of Hearts
    “Playing with clay makes no pots, playing with clay makes potters”

    This was the Aphorism that meant I had to make a second pack. It is so good and sums up what we do, it answers all the “But are they learning anything?” complaints perfectly.

    2 Hearts
    The “Allo, Allo” theory of learning

    Loose Objects (LO) = Learning Outcomes (LO)

    Simon Nicholson

    “Allo, Allo” is an old British comedy programme, it caricatures British attitudes to the Second World War and is a pastiche which includes some pretty dated ideas of comedy, that would not be “PC” nowadays, but it is fondly remembered.

    The more loose objects there are in an educational toy, the more degrees of freedom, and the more potential there is for learning. When I was a boy, Lego bricks came in red or white and had 2, 4, or 8 spots; I could build anything my imagination could conceive, and I did, planes, rockets, houses, submarines for mice (best forgotten!). With modern sets the parts are so specific you can only build the DeathStar.

    In 1971, Simon Nicholson wrote an article in a Landscape Architecture journal called "How NOT to Cheat Children – The Theory of Loose Parts"

    A pile of sand is almost the ultimate experiential learning experience, no wonder kids like the beach.

    There is a quote from William Gibson’s book, All Tomorrow’s Parties:

    “That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace.”

    Ace of Clubs
    Safety Engineering

    One bad accident could close your centre forever.

    If you have 100 exhibits with 100,000 Visitors per annum, there are 10 million visitor/exhibit interactions per year

     So, a “one in a million chance” gives almost an accident every month

    When working with the staff of Science or Engineering based companies, or universities, often the creation of exhibits based on their technologies is viewed by that staff as “making toys”. 
    One prototype of a jointly-developed exhibit had a giant “Train Points”-style lever with a sprung return which, when released, hammered into the heavy brass surround, it was a thing of beauty and a deadly finger guillotine. 

    The co-developers tended to dismiss my concerns, ”No one would be silly enough to put their finger in there” etc. I needed a way to show the risk in a way that fitted with their mindset of engineering precision. And so, this Aphorism was born giving risk as a Parts per million. This approach and the sacrifice of a child’s finger-sized carrot thankfully ended the discussion.

    6 Clubs
    To find the most popular exhibit look in the Accident Book

    A Science Centre is a safe place for Visitors, but the allure of apparent danger is there in many of the most popular exhibits, The Gyro Chair, The Mirror Maze etc. So, as well as being amongst the most used, these exhibits also figure prominently in the institution’s Accident Book. The decision to keep or retire an exhibit on the grounds of safety is one of the trickiest an exhibition manager has to make.

    4 Diamonds
    Fixing is different from repairing

    Repairing is the same thing each time

    Fixing is doing something different,
    so that you don't keep on repairing

    In a Science Centre that develops its own exhibits, the exhibits become a process, evolving to convey the content better to the Visitor and to become easier to maintain. Although we must be careful that making the exhibit easier to maintain doesn’t harm the learning experience. In one Science Museum I worked with the Maintenance Team would gladly have put every interactive in a glass case with a push-button, just to reduce their workload, 

    Often in SC’s where the exhibits are bought-in, it is harder to change the exhibit to work better without voiding some nebulous warranty and so the Visitor experience cannot be improved.

    Queen of Diamonds
    Fundraising moves money,
    it doesn't make money

    If you make money from your own activities, if your organisation is profitable, then you decide what you do with that profit. If you rely on funders then they set your goals, and these may not be compatible with your own or with your long-term viability.

    So, look every gift horse square in the mouth before accepting their money. Costs are made up of Capital costs, revenue costs, and legacy costs to the organisation.

    Thanks are due to the many practitioners whose words I have mangled for my own use, wherever I can I have given credit to them. I also should thank the many institutions around the world that have gainfully employed me and whose experiences, painful and otherwise, I have tried to distill into short, glib, aphorisms.

    Thanks are also due to Paul Orselli of POW! and Sherry Marshall of Science Museum Oklahoma, who encouraged me to get this set done, and to Thorsten Kunnemann of Technorama, the Swiss Science Centre who has employed me and given a platform to these aphorisms in the Exploratory Encounters workshops for those developing their own Science Centres and to my wife, Jen, who has had to endure endless versions of these over many, many years.

    I hope that you enjoy them and that they help you to develop your plans, but please don’t take them too seriously.

    Any corrections or suggestions can be sent to me at harry.white90@ntlworld.com 


    We'll be giving away 4 prizes to four lucky winners  -- 2 sets of both the first and second Exhibit Aphorisms decks, and 2 individual decks of the winner's choice (either the first or second deck.)

    There are two ways to enter the giveaway:

    1) Become a subscriber to ExhibiTricks by clicking the link at the top right of the blog's homepage, where it says, "Sign up NOW for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates."

    2) If you are already a subscriber, then send an email to: info@orselli.net with the subject line, "Aphorisms Deck Giveaway."

    Enter by July 5, 2022 to be eligible to win one of the four prizes.  GOOD LUCK!

    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"