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Writing a Museum Title Card

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Although in the art history discipline one might not curate a museum exhibition or write a catalog, if you want to work in the museum profession, you will most likely at some point write a museum text panel. These are the small white cards that are typically next to a work of art.

A text panel consists of the following information – typically in this order:

Title of the Piece

Date of piece or date of dynasty, etc (depends on the specific piece)

Artist (Often provide date of their life)

Material of piece, i.e. painting, sculpture, etc.

Not every text panel is the same and often it depends on the piece of work: Do you provide the dimensions of the piece? The origin of the artist? Who currently owns the piece (person or institution)? All of these questions are something to consider when making a text panel.

If providing more material for the reader one should be as brief as possible (the individual does not have all day to read the panel) as well as using accessible language – if the description is too theory based the reader will get stuck in formalist jargon and no one will learn anything from the work unless they are an art historian themselves. The text panel is just to suggest something to the reader instead of stating your analysis as fact – what are some things you want your audience to take away? Think of this in relation to your museum catalog entries – how much information do you want to provide? Entries should be about 200 – 300 words maximum. Often, many museums provide nothing for their reader. On one hand this allows readers to make their own assumptions on the work of art but it also means an individual might not be able to take away anything from viewing the work or miss the larger context of the art piece.