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Object Conservation

Interpreting Objects

What is museum interpretation?

Museum interpretation is the art of presenting information in a form that visitors can enjoy and quickly understand. The most common form of interpretation for objects is using labels. Most museum exhibitions will have labels to explain what each object is along with other interesting and useful facts or stories. A label is not the only form of interpretation however; Information can be delivered in a variety of creative ways including:

  • Art, photographs and images
  • Videos
  • Audio clips
  • Interactive games
  • Maps

You may also come across tour guides or actors in a museum, these staff are sometimes known as live interpreters.

 

Museum Labels

Depending upon where you visit, museum labels can be short and factual, or long and descriptive, but there are a few things that almost all labels have in common:

  • Name of the object
  • Date the object was made, often shown in brackets after object name.
  • Who it belonged to or who made it
  • Museum number

Examples

Using this Pikachu toy as an example, we can look at two different approaches to object labels:

 

Pikachu Pokemon Soft Toy

 

_____LABEL 1 START_____

Pokemon toy (2000)

Sold in Woolworths

Object number; LEEDM.E.2002.0021.0001

_____LABEL 1 END_____

 

This example however is very minimal and gives no extra interesting information for a visitor. You can add information after the title but before the object number, like in the example below:

 

_____LABEL 2 START_____

Pokémon Pikachu Toy (2000)

Sold in Woolworths

Pikachu was introduced to us through the anime TV series “Pokémon” launched in 1998. We also have some trading cards in our collection that made the franchise so popular.

This toy is battery operated. When you press the paw it says “Pikachu, I choose you!”

Object number; LEEDM.E.2002.0021.0001

_____LABEL 2 END_____

 

Tips for writing labels

When staff at Leeds Museums and Galleries write a museum label they do so using a guide. Here are some of the tips we follow.

Word count and font

  • When describing the object try keep to around 30 words.
  • Use a font size of at least 16 so it is clear to read.
  • Consider where the label is going to be in the exhibition, if it is far away from eye level font may need to be bigger.
  • Use a font that is easy to read

Friendliness

  • People like it when labels feel more personal. Use we/our/us and when speaking to your audience use you/ yours
  • Write in plain English so it is easy to read and understand.
  • If you want to make sure your label is a good one read your text out loud to a friend and ask them if it sounds correct and makes sense.