The Secret Life of Drawings is an exhibition that offers a glimpse behind the scenes of conservation work at the Getty; the focus is on drawings from the late 1300s to the 1800s which have been damaged by out-moded conservation methods, poor storage and display conditions and the passage of time. The primary design challenge was to simply and elegantly convey some complicated messages to visitors with varying levels of expertise.
The idea of bringing the visitor behind the scenes and into the “Secret Life of Drawings” was the catalyst for the graphics. We directed a photo-shoot in the conservation lab with the artworks and various conservation tools. Using this documentary, investigative style, we began to tell the story through the promotional graphics. Approaching the gallery, the visitor is led further into the story via a mural showing the curator working inside her lab, as if you are there with her. Laboratory documentation practices are conveyed through use of graphic references such as grids and file folders. Freestanding label pedestals allow visitors to access information while viewing either side of a double-sided drawing; maintaining space from the drawings, but angled to allow for easy comparison between drawing and label. Hands-on interaction includes a case where visitors can activate a backlight to reveal a watermark. This mimics the conservator’s investigative techniques of using x-rays and lighting. Magnifying glasses provided for visitors suggest a conservation method of finding defects and details in the art