Transparency in the Museum: Deinstalling Nancy Holt, & An Interview with Exhibition Designer Sarah Palmer


Palmer works to remove the vinyl lettering from the Holt walls

Though I have had plenty of glimpses into the installation of a show (everything from paintings to bodies), somehow this was my very first time getting a peek at how a show comes down.


Objects from Holt get organized, examined, and packed in the UMFA’s Great Hall

This is yet another cool part about working in a museum–how often I feel like I’m behind the scenes. It is my hope that this blog can do something toward making you feel the same way.


As the rooms empty, it’s almost hard to remember what incredible things once filled them

While I was wandering the dusty, emptying rooms where once stood (and hung, and reclined, and peeped) Nancy Holt, I ran into our Exhibition Designer, Sarah Palmer, hard at work.


Not only does a team work to deinstall and examine the pieces, but some packing crates are made from scratch to ensure their perfection

And even though I caught her at one of the busiest times someone with her position could have, she was kind enough to answer some of my questions:

UMFA Blog: How long does the average deinstallation process take? How long will this one take?

Sarah: It all varies depending on the art that needs to come down. We normally take a week to take down large installations with electronic equipment. But we have a very short turn around this time, so everything needs to be out of the gallery in one day.  

UMFA Blog: Wow! What is the most stressful part of a deinstallation? Is anything about it fun? 

Sarah: Deinstallation is not stressful, but you can get anxious thinking about what the installation plan is for the exhibition following it. Making sure we are on track and have enough time to finish everything.  It can be a sad experience to see the art being taken off the wall and put away.  

UMFA Blog: What is your most hated part of the process? 

Sarah: Taking off the vinyl from text panels and quotes is a tedious process. It feels like it should come off easy, but there are times it takes many hours and people to get it off the wall. I have done a ton of damage to my nails to get all the vinyl off. When it comes to the large title vinyl, that is the fun part of taking down vinyl because it is much easier to take it down.  

UMFA Blog: What do you think people might find the most surprising about deinstalling an exhibit?  

Sarah: When we take the art off of exhibition, our Collections department will spend hours looking at the condition of each peice to see if any damage occured while on exhibition. They are highly trained to see any unusual marks that could have happened while on display. Luckily we have a report done, when the piece arives to see if it has been there when we recieved it.  


An important role of any museum includes protection of the objects in its care

Even though we’re sad to see Nancy Holt’s work leave us, we’re so thrilled for what’s to come. I hope you’ll consider joining us as we open the Mike Disfarmer photography show this week, and Bierstadt to Warhol in just a couple of weeks!


One comment

  1. Pingback: What is Fair, What is Right, What is Important: Considering Art in a War Zone | Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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