Album covers are a part of rock photography that seems to resonate with people’s everyday experience. In talks with our Design and Education staff, we decided that the Who Shot Rock exhibition might be a great opportunity to experiment with a fairly simple, low-tech participatory space: a do-it-yourself album cover lounge.
We had card stock cut in the shape of LP and CD covers, and gathered back issues of music magazines, electrical tape in bright colors, pre-cut paper shapes, scissors, tape, and staplers. Then we set it all out in a small, cozy space attached to the exhibition, nailed a bunch of metal clips into the wall to let people hang up their work (the clip idea was inspired by this poster, put up a few real album covers for inspiration, and let visitors do what they wished.
We weren’t sure what to expect. Would people want to do this? Would it work without staff on hand? So far, we’ve been incredibly impressed with what people have made, and with their willingness to sit down and work on these projects. (But then, who doesn’t want an excuse to sit down after a long day at the museum?) We had to be flexible and embrace some uncertainty and the results are interesting: some people use the tools we provided, and others bring their own tools (like pencils or other images) to make amazing covers; some people clip their covers to the walls, others take them home; some people spend over an hour, others take a few minutes.
We’ve had some encouraging visitor responses so far, but have had to make a few adjustments along the way. None of us wanted to put up instructions in a freeform space like this. But after a few visitors seemed unsure about whether they could participate, we did add one sign, in the same homemade, collaged style as the covers in the space.
The only real challenge has been maintenance. People are surprisingly considerate, but a full day’s worth of album-makers takes its toll. And on high traffic days, like Target First Saturday, it gets particularly chaotic. This is what it looked like one Sunday morning:
So instead of the twice-weekly check-ins we imagined, a staff member visits once or twice a day. And if a little mess piles up, no one seems to mind—it’s rock and roll, after all. If you’re planning to come by, we hope you’ll make a cover while you’re here. And if you’ve already made one, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Jennifer Bantz is Interpretive Materials Manager at the Brooklyn Museum. She has been with the Museum since 2006, previously as a Research Assistant and Exhibitions Assistant. She works with Curatorial, Education, Editorial, Technology, and Design staff to interpret works of art for a broad public and promote visitor accessibility through wall texts, printed materials, audio and video projects, and participatory experiences. Jennifer received a B. A. from Wake Forest University, an M. A. in Art History from the University of California, Riverside.