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- Museum & Visitor Center Exhibit Planning, Design, and Production Process
Listed here are categories of specialized knowledge and skills needed by those involved in museum exhibit development, and categories of requirements based on law, policy, or professional practice.
1 Exhibit Planning. Museum planning is a profession requiring many specialized skills. Planner KSAs are outlined in position descriptions for Staff Curator (Museum Design).
2 Exhibit Design. Exhibit design is a profession requiring many specialized skills. Designer KSAs are outlined in position descriptions for Visual Information Specialists.
3 Exhibit Production. Exhibit production management is a career field requiring many specialized skills. Producer KSAs are outlined in position descriptions for Exhibits Specialist.
4 Graphics Research. Planners need to know how to locate graphics and film footage, and how to acquire suitable copies for reproduction. Relationships with source institutions must be fostered.
5 Audiovisual Development. Often requires coordination with the Harpers Ferry Center Audiovisual Arts group or contract AV specialists.
6 Use Rights and Copyright Law. Knowledge of copyright, trademark, and licensing laws are vital for media planners. The advent of digital graphics and web access has made. U.S. Copyright Office »
7 Exhibit Lighting. Lighting is critical to success of exhibitions, and is a career field in itself. The Federal government issues regulations regarding lawful lamps and energy conservation.
8 Writing and Editing. High quality writing and editing has always been important in exhibit development, but is often neglected as other quality factors gain more attention.
9 Object Conservation. The NPS and the profession have standards and guidelines which heavily impact the exhibit process, including the HFC Exhibit Conservation Guidelines available on cd-rom. Protection of historic objects is a critical responsibility. HFC Exhibit Conservation Guidelines »
10 Academic Standards. Information and interpretation we present must be in line with the academic standards of various disciplines beyond the NPS--archeology, history, biology, geology, design, art, writing....
11 Media Evaluation. While not a regulation, evaluation has repeatedly been noted as an important need. Seldom practiced historically in the NPS. Evaluation is gaining acceptance in the private sector.
12 Developing Illustrations. Must establish contracts and be cognizant of use rights issues and implications. Art direction requires diplomacy, knowledge of fine arts, and specialized skills.
13 Coordination with Architects. There are many codes affecting facilities design, with many client requirements. These must be balanced with media quality concerns. Media staff need to know how to read and understand drawings and designs.
14 Media Contracting. The COTR role in media projects involves dealing with multitudes of regulations, procedures, and barriers. Complete and well-written scopes of work are essential. COTR role is demanding throughout the process. Specialized and recurring training mandated.
15 Project Budgeting. Planners must work with complicated budgets from multiple sources. Various regulations apply, such as 17% planning/design cap, spending deadlines, varying fund source requirements.
16 Project Tracking. Project tracking is required for effective management, but no specific software application has been established for NPS media work.
17 Project Management. Formal project management is an emerging function at Harpers Ferry Center. Project management is especially critical for large, multi-media projects. Training is available.
18 Universal Design. Regulations regarding accessibility are rapidly increasing in scope, effect, and complexity. They heavily impact all phases of media work.
19 Sustainability. Exhibits and exhibit environments must be built for long-term use and value. This means higher up-front costs for long term value. Media in the NPS may need to be in place 20+ years.
20 Environmental Concerns. There are many regulations affecting materials and chemicals used in exhibits and exhibit processes.
21 Energy Consumption. There are various regulations and policies affecting energy consumption in NPS facilities and equipment. EPA offers help with Green Energy projects, but staff must be knowledgeable.
22 Diversity. Diverse points of view in interpretation are essential, as is the need to be sensitive to the beliefs of diverse audiences.
23 Value Analysis. Policies requiring Development Advisory Board review and value analysis are impacting the exhibit development process. Training, facilitation, and assistance by VA specialists may be needed.
24 Cooperating Association Partnerships. VC projects often require coordination with associations who manage sales operations. Their requirements must be balanced with project needs/quality. NPS Cooperating Associations »
25 NPS Graphic Identity Program. The NPS Graphic Identity Program has brought a new set of graphic design and public relations standards into place. The design standards are paired with a need to present consistent messages to the public about the park and NPS as a whole. NPS Graphic Identity Program »
26 Partnering Environment. Working with partners often means working within their organizational requirements which often differ with ours. Projects must be reviewed by a steadily growing number of stakeholders.
27 Media for Education. School districts have curriculum requirements that need to be considered. Teachers have special needs. HFC hired its first Education Specialist in February 2003.
28 Developing Technologies. Media specialists need to keep abreast of new technologies in interactive media, AV, graphics, media development software, fabrication techniques…
29 Interpretive Development Program. Exhibit planners/designers need to become familiar with the Interpretive Development Program and its associated competencies, training modules, interpretive theories, and vocabulary.
30 NPS Thematic Framework. Developed under the NPS Chief Historian, the thematic framework sets out themes for developing media for historical subjects Servicewide.
31 NPS Curators Exhibit Process. NPS curators have an exhibit development process which differs from HFC's. Coordination with park and regional curators is important.
32 Special Constituencies. Many projects require close cooperation with groups such as American Indian tribes, Japanese-Americans, or African Americans. Project staff need to know how to work effectively with these groups.
33 Limited English Proficiency. Executive Order 13166, August 2000, requires Federal agencies to make programs and services meaningful for those who cannot speak, read, write, or understand English. Interpretive media is covered.
34 Environmental Education. This includes more than biology or ecology, touching on all subjects taught . It takes an integrated and comprehensive approach, using the "environment" as an organizing principle to include math, language arts, history, economics, geography, etc.
35 Use of Historic Structures. Museum exhibits are often located in historic structures. There are accompanying issues and regulations that impact the exhibits process. Modifications to architecture must be coordinated through State Historic Preservation Officers.
36 Interpretive Planning. Before exhibit planning can be done effectively, the planning team needs a Long Range Interpretive Plan, or the information that is normally developed during this process. HFC Interpretive Planning »
37 Safety. A museum environment can be unfamiliar to visitors. Low lighting levels, circulation barriers, and interactive exhibits pose hazards. Designers need to consider especially the needs of children and seniors.
38 Security. Especially in light of recent terrorist threats, security of visitors and park resources against attacks, vandalism, and theft is of high importance. High profile artifacts must be protected.
39 Visitor Surveys. Government regulations restrict the ability of project staff to solicit feedback from park visitors. Required approval processes can cause delays and added cost.
40 Cartography. Exhibits feature maps to help visitors visualize landscapes and geographic areas. Exhibit maps should conform to NPS and industry standards for colors, type, symbols, line weights, USGS naming conventions, and many other criteria. NPS Maps »
41 Natural History Specimens and Models. Three dimensional representations of plants, animals, and other natural features have long been key elements in museums. There are many technical, ethical, interpretive, and maintenance issues involved.
42 Facilitation. Group facilitation is a social science skill that project leaders need for creative problem solving, especially in large or partner-based projects. It is often require to mitigate unproductive communication patterns.
43 Project Audits. The Department of the Interior's Inspector General and the GAO sometimes audit projects, requiring project staff to keep and submit very detailed records of all project work, including memos and trip reports.
44 Database Management. Increasingly, database programs are being used for managing labels, graphics, artifacts, equipment, and digital layouts. This increases efficiency, but requires coordination with software managers and specialized computer skills.
45 NAGPRA Compliance. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act addresses the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to cultural items. Complex laws and policies impact museum planning and the management of existing museums.
46 Oral/Video Histories. Project staff often need to know how to conduct interviews, and techniques for capturing, archiving, and accessing the histories. Issues related to informed consent, intellectual property rights, and privacy must be addressed.
47 Civic Engagement. All NPS units and offices must adopt civic engagement and public involvement as the essential foundation for creating plans and developing programs. Many regulations and policies apply. Director's Order 75A (November 2003)
48 Museum Photography. Just as exhibit staff may have to commission original artwork, often there is a need to photograph subjects for exhibition purposes, or to take record photos of completed exhibits. The large reproduction sizes of exhibit images require specialized photographic skills and equipment.
49 Original Research. While many exhibits derive content from familiar and easily accessed sources, some require substantive research using primary sources. Such research requires specialized tools and experience. Historic furnishings projects frequently require primary research.
50 Object Research and Acquisition. At historic sites it is often necessary to identify, locate, and acquire historic objects for museum displays and furnishings exhibits. This involves skills in treasure hunting, object evaluation, diplomacy, and buying techniques. Historic Furnishings, Research & Object Acquisition »
51 Typography. The use of type is prevalent in all the major interpretive media, and its proper or improper use impacts the delivery of information and the efficacy of the interpretation. NPS work requires a high level of skill in this traditional discipline.