Writing an Object Label (MS Word , 14kb)

Writing an Object Label
By Vicky Harrison, Collections Manager, York Minster
The key to label writing is to keep it short and make it relevant.
Things to Remember
The most important part of any exhibition or display is to define the objectives and the target
audience before anything else is thought about. Once this has been set everything else flows
Once you have defined your audience you must aim your text at that audience. For the Undercroft
we are looking at a general audience. We are therefore using the same basis as the BBC – an
intelligent 12 year old. This is also similar to most newspapers. It does not mean that we only expect
12 year olds to enjoy our museum it just means the general public will be able to process
information quickly and easily, and the text will avoid the use of technical words and phrases.
People can remember on average five messages from one visit. You must therefore work out what
you want to tell people and then reinforce it continuously. The label is a way of reinforcing the
message of the gallery. This is difficult for our project as our objectives have not been set yet but for
the purpose of the exercise try setting some of your own.
Labels should be no longer than 50 words. They are backing up themes that have been explained
Address in the first person, i.e. “Why don’t you think about…―
Be active i.e. “Discover what Roman York…―
Give context to something people can relate to, i.e. “The weight of the Central Tower is
equivalent to 40 Jumbo Jets―
Ask questions to engage/encourage people to look more closely i.e. “What would you
use as your Mason’s mark?―
Prioritise your text i.e. Message that you cannot leave the museum without knowing, then
next important bit, then next and so on.
Good Examples
The Yorkshire Museum Roman Gallery – shows layering of text from Gallery Theme
through to object label.
The Wellcome Collection
Bibliography / Courses
Guidelines from the Australian Museum
Articles from the Family Learning Forum
Guide from Scottish National Heritage (PDF)
Museums Association Course: Writing Great Gallery Text (20/01/2011)