Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life


of an Exhibition

by Hannah Hamill

Published on April 01, 2011

  • Description:

    “Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life” was a puzzling exhibit—it is able to sell itself with Lincoln’s hat (making it a very popular exhibit regardless of what else is presented), but there are only a handful of objects in the exhibit, requiring the exhibit to rely heavily on text panels throughout. The abundance of text would not have been a problem if the types of labels had been distinguished a little bit better. I thought that it was a little frustrating that some of the body type in the labels (especially in the subsection intro panels, subsection panels, and artifact history panels) was close enough in size that it was hard to tell the hierarchy of labels. In all fairness, I might have been keenly aware of this because I was trying to measure each label and figure out what to call them in this assignment. However, some of the labels very clearly stated a purpose with their size. For example, the descriptive wall quotes throughout the exhibit were large and could be read from a distance—perfect for the audience that was quickly going through the exhibit and didn’t have time to read everything.

    The exhibit title and most of the label titles were in a rustic Serif type to evoke a sense of time and place—presumably Lincoln’s 19th-century rural roots in the log cabin. I felt that while the font was somewhat decorative, it wasn’t distracting and tied well with the topic of the exhibit. The designer also made a good choice by having the text and background contrast. Because the room was so dark (in terms of paint color and lighting), the lighter text on the walls (i.e., the quotes) really stood out well and was very readable. The same went for the labels—the type was dark and placed against a light background for better readability. The labels used Serif type for titles and both Serif and San Serif type for body text—also a good choice for readability. I appreciated that the designer pretty much stuck to two typefaces throughout the whole exhibit (the typeface for the titles, and the typeface for the body text). To me it made the exhibit less cluttered and gave it a uniform look.

    Ultimately, the exhibit text has a nice, clean look that is consistent throughout each of the subsections.

    *Editor’s note: This review was written for a course in exhibition design.

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