What it’s like to manage a traveling exhibition

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be an exhibition manager of a touring exhibition? Read on to learn from Carli Brown, a seasoned Exhibition Manager of travelling exhibits such as Spiders: From Fear to Fascination and The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited.

          Carli Brown


For the months leading up to the exhibit arriving at its new temporary home, it’s all about planning. From the first contact with the hosting venue (usually a Project Manager or Exhibition Manager is my contact), we start planning. We’re organising crew, freight and logistics of the travelling live spiders and ensuring a health care plan for the spiders. We discuss marketing strategies and design creative ideas to locally market the exhibition. Collaboratively, we work on the floor plan and design the best possible exhibition layout based on their gallery’s size/layout. Everything that can be pre-planned, is discussed at length to ensure an efficient and effective use of time onsite.

The Install

It seems like a long time before the show reaches the next venue. Yet, before too long, it’s time. Time to board a plane and visit a new place, or revisit old friends, to bring the exhibit everyone is waiting for. All the months of planning come to this point. Day one of install is spent unpacking, setting the teams up and beginning to place items in their new places. The spiders have already arrived and a spider keeper is settling the spiders into their new home. Days two to five are big days, the crew all know their tasks and are busy assembling and installing exhibition furniture. Day six is where the live spiders come into the gallery. It’s a huge thrill! Even after numerous venues, seeing the spiders at each show is truly impressive. The second week of the install is where the excitement happens, the energy in the gallery is lifted as the show begins to come to life. Venue staff and media begin to flow through the gallery excited about what they see. On the last day of the install, when the final touches are completed, it’s a great feeling standing back and seeing the show set up. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to be able to organise a successful project with people from all over the world.

Crowd Favorites

During the opening, watching visitors interact in the exhibit is joyful for me. The kids walk in and instantly start playing with the interactive floor projection, this is a very popular interactive for small kids and toddlers. The adults are curious about the live spiders. The live venom milking lab is my favourite part of the exhibit. It’s amazing watching the spider-wranglers handle the spiders and extract venom from these tiny venomous animals. For the kids, the colouring station is a big hit. The colour table has blank colouring sheets where the kids can create and decorate their own spiders. The finished product is then placed on a scanning machine and the children are able to watch their spider come to life when projected onto a large wall.

For me, the live spiders are definitely the show stoppers. They’re incredible to see in real life. Fascinated by their movements and beauty, I find myself visually entrenched to ensure nothing is missed.

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