Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

6.1 Techniques for Effective Displays


6.1: Techniques for Effective Displays

For detailed background on displays, you might purchase Patricia Mummert and William Shelton‘s Exhibiting: The Show Biz Aspect of the Hobby, available from the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies. Help your kids develop a tip list of do‘s and don‘ts of effective displaying. For instance, kids should learn such rules as:

Use neutral liners to highlight, not detract from, specimens: Display cases often look best when lined with cloth wrapped tightly around sheets of cardboard or plywood cut to fit snuggly along the case sides and bottom. Two rules govern choice of cloth. First, you want the viewer‘s eye to focus on your specimens, not the background; choose a cloth that‘s neutral in appearance. Avoid patterns (spots, checkers, paisley, stripes) and avoid cloth that‘s glossy and reflects light or that‘s garish in color. Plain linen, canvas, or burlap in a neutral color usually works best. Second, choose a color that will highlight your specimens. Dark specimens can get lost against a dark liner; instead, use pastel shades of light blue, tan, eggshell white, etc. If displaying light-colored specimens, a dark liner (black, navy blue, dark olive green) may be more appropriate. Choose a color that enables your specimens to pop in the viewer‘s eyes.

Use balance (in size of specimens, colors, and arrangement) to guide the viewer’s eye across a display in an aesthetically pleasing way: Choose specimens that compliment one another in size and shape and arrange them symmetrically around a center. A large specimen shoved to the side of a case can make a display look lopsided. However, a single large piece placed in the center and surrounded by smaller pieces can provide a pleasing effect. If using risers, place larger specimens toward the bottom of the case and smaller ones toward the top to lend a sense of gravity to the display. If displaying colorful minerals, arrange the colors in a way that provides interest to the viewer; for instance, alternate dark and light colored minerals.

Use neat, clear labeling that’s both precise and concise and large enough to read: Handwritten labels with spelling errors on jaggedly cut pieces of paper leave a bad impression. If possible, you should use labels that are typed in large, bold print that is easily read from a distance, and labels should be uniform in size. Keep information on a label to a minimum; the centerpiece of a display should be the rocks, minerals, fossils, or lapidary pieces, and the labels should provide back-up info but shouldn‘t steal the show.

Use lighting that’s neither too bright nor too dim and that shines evenly across a case: Most cases include lights, which is essential to best highlight your display. At most federation-sponsored shows, no more than 150 watts of lighting is usually recommended. Light should fall evenly throughout the case, with no round spotlights or shadows.

Finally, consider using a theme or story to tie a display together: This is especially effective for educational displays that illustrate a process; for instance, the steps in how to make a cab, moving from rough material at one end of the case to stones that are polished and set in a mounting at the other end. Or you might display a grouping of minerals or fossils from one locality or formation; or one sort of rock (for instance, an agate collection) or fossil (a collection of trilobites).