On 26 April 2019, the British Library opened its flagship exhibition ‘Writing: Making Your Mark’. Billed as a journey through 5,000 years of history ‘from hieroglyphs to emojis’, the exhibition provided visitors with a contextualised history of the written word. In addition to the chronological development of this skill, the curators also looked at embodied and social aspects of writing, with a heavy emphasis on the role that technological change has played in the evolution of written culture.
This illustrated presentation will look at the inception, narration and ultimate exhibition of the show ‘Writing: Making Your Mark’ with a heavy emphasis on the place of printing within its narrative. Co-Curator Michael Erdman will discuss the aims of the curation team; the challenges that they faced; and the final results of their efforts to enrich popular discussions on printing and written history.
Special attention will be given to questions of inclusion and representation; interactivity; and outreach. Erdman will look at the difficulties of bringing out stories of diversity and divergence across social, temporal and geographic spaces, or of uncovering silenced histories of printing, within a finite exhibition space and restricted item selection criteria. He will also explore the role curators have in making their exhibitions accessible to wider audiences in a manner that is inclusive of different interests, abilities, backgrounds and resources.
In sum, this presentation will be a sharing of experiences and lessons learned on how to make print and printing relevant and understandable in the public sphere. It seeks to answer the question: how do printing exhibitions entice those with specialist knowledge while also inspire new generations of printers?