Winning walls at Waikato Museum

Having asked ‘How can we do this better?’ Waikato Museum came up with an innovative solution for temporary exhibition walling which won the Judges’ Award for Sustainability at the 2012 Museums Aotearoa Conference.

The new walling is a three-part system consisting of an upright, cross members, and a skin, all fitted together without glue. It is flexible enough to cope with the challenges of an uneven floor and the high walls in Waikato Museum’s Gallery 12. Additionally, every element of the system can be reused, saving the museum time, money, and labour when setting up new exhibitions.

Exhibitions Technician Stephen Salt was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project:

Can you tell us a little bit about the initial concept for creating the walling system – what made you consider a more sustainable approach to temporary exhibition walling?

The concept came out of necessity, as we had to build significantly more walling than usual, with a limited installation time and budget. To make that much walling with that little installation time, we had to look at constructing the walls with repeated components. To make those components affordable we had to make the most economic use of the materials and make them reusable.

Cross members. Image courtesy of Waikato Museum.

How long did it take to develop the walling system from start to finish?

Four weeks to develop a prototype, costing, and specifications. Six weeks to manufacture, twelve days to install, and one week to install extras like cases.

How many people were involved in the development?

I did the concept development and design. I had the help of a joiner (three weeks for the manufacture, two weeks for the build), and the help of two staff members who made time around their other duties.

Work in progress on temporary walls. Image courtesy of Waikato Museum.

How many hours did it take to move the walling for the following exhibition in that space? How did this compare with previous exhibition changeovers?

It took two weeks to change the exhibition ready for installation. That’s about the same time as for previous changeovers, but in the past we would have used far fewer metres of walling but required more people.

What advice do you have for other organisations looking at sustainability issues?

Look at all phases of a product’s life:

  • If it has one use, manufacture it with as few resources as possible, and think about how you can reuse those materials.
    • Choose recyclable materials.
    • Develop constructions that can be easily dismantled.
  • Think about the adaptability of what you build. Making something to use in more then one exhibition is the best option if you want to make the most of your limited time, budgets, and resources. Make sure you have suitable, well-organised storage for it.

Completed wall with kicker at top and bottom. Image courtesy of Waikato Museum.