Case Closed: Suitcase Exhibitions

While completing an internship at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Exhibits, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of projects. However, the main focus of my internship was to provide support for the Travelling Exhibitions programme.

One of the shipping cases.

This is the standard case that is used for the suitcase exhibitions. They are shipped to dozens of locations across Canada each year. Image: Lyndsey Sullivan

With a background in Museum Studies, I have experience with the various formats in which exhibitions can be presented. Initially, my knowledge of suitcase-sized travelling exhibitions was somewhat limited. Prior to beginning my internship, I conducted some online research and studied the nine suitcase exhibitions offered by the museum. I could not conceive how all the components listed could possibly fit into a single case!

Throughout the course of my internship, I have been responsible for shipping and receiving the suitcase exhibitions from host venues across Canada. While reporting on the condition of the contents of these exhibitions during the first week of my internship, I quickly began to realize exactly how much could really be packed into this 76 cm × 45 cm × 28 cm Pelican case!

Collage: A woman unpacks a case onto a large table, and the contents of the case arranged on the table.

Lindsey Sullivan unpacks the From Dinosaurs to Mammals suitcase exhibition. One table is almost not enough to display it all! Images: Rachel Gervais (left), Lyndsey Sullivan (right) © Canadian Museum of Nature

There is so much to discover in each exhibition; it often takes me quite a while to verify the contents of each suitcase because I get wrapped up in all of the amazing specimens, books and activities.

I’ve now had the opportunity to explore all of the suitcase exhibitions that the museum has to offer. Opening each case was a new experience. Imagine opening a suitcase and removing the top layer, only to discover several animal skulls, casts of dinosaur jaws and real fossils!

Collage: The case with the lid open showing the 2D materials, and an overhead view of the padded interior showing the 3D materials.

The From Dinosaurs to Mammals suitcase exhibition. Left: The first layer in the case contains graphic panels, illustrated books and other interpretive materials. Right: The bottom layer of the case holds 10 mounted specimens and casts. Images: Lyndsey Sullivan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Even with a background in Biology, I have learned so many new things, like what a whale’s baleen looks and feels like, and that fossilized feces (coprolite) exists.

In addition to all of the amazing things in each case, I was really pleased to see the number of suitcase exhibitions that are a representation of the museum’s full-sized exhibitions and galleries. This translation is wonderful because some people are not able to visit the museum regularly. The real specimens and realistic replicas are normally only found within the museum’s full sized exhibitions, and are not generally items one might anticipate viewing at a community centre or in a classroom.

I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to explore the depths of what can be found in these cases.

This entry was posted in Education, Exhibitions, Tools of the trade and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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