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“Signage” is a popular term around museum marketing offices. It gets a work order, designed, produced, and lives out its purpose. But what happens to the dozens of exhibition and museum signs when the show is over, the program done or the sign is just passed its prime?

Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile,  Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, $415A company called BetterWall allows you to buy those exhibition banners from around the world to become timeless works of art for your home or business. Started by a husband-wife team of environmental consultant and art historian, BetterWall works with museums through its “Recycle and Reuse Program” to help museums remain green by taking tons of vinyl banners off their hands and selling them, giving a portion of the profits back to the museums. I have a National Portrait Gallery, George Washington “Lansdowne” sign that used to be displayed on the Mall in Washington, D.C. framed in my living room, but this article by a Washington Post reporter was the first time I had heard of a company who made authentic museum advertising available to the public.

As unique objects produced in limited editions, the banners embody great art, great museums, and contemporary advertising trends. — BetterWall

Since you won’t find IMA signage on BetterWall, what happens to it all? To start out, indoor “case signs” that advertise upcoming and current exhibitions and programs are typically requested by IMA staff who would like them as souvenirs from the show. The exhibition’s curator always gets first dibs. Next, are the large, outdoor “facade banners” that hang over the front of building. (Roman Art from the Louvre was up last fall, and Breaking the Mode is currently up.) Because they are so massive, they are usually recycled in various ways by the IMA grounds crew for things such as tarps. The facade banners that do not advertise specific exhibitions are evergreen and are stored when not in use. The “perimeter banners,” made of the same mesh material as the facade banners, currently feature “It’s My Art.” When they are switched out in the near future, IMA staff will work with buildings management or the sign company who creates them to recycle them. And finally, the “trilon signs” at the corner of Michigan and 38th streets, are made of a durable material so they can look good regardless of the elements. Staff are looking into the possibility of an option for routinely recycling these as well.

So there you have it. It doesn’t look like authentic IMA signage is currently available for your decorating desires, but you never know what the future may hold. IMA members, check out your summer issue of Previews magazine at the end of April for a poster to put up in the office.

Filed under: Design, Marketing

4 Responses to “Signage”

  • avatar
    Daniel Says:

    Perhaps you could have a drawing for museum members who are interested in the signage? Some people would love having those things.

  • avatar
    Amber Says:

    Even working here, I’m amazed (embarrassed?) by the things I don’t think about that go on all around me. This is a great blog, Noelle. And I’m super excited for the poster in Previews…what a smart idea!

  • avatar

    Hi Noelle,
    If you produce any streetpost banners, we would love to make the IMA a part of our Recycle & Reuse Program. The idea for BetterWall grew out of my own curatorial work at The Art Institute of Chicago – whenever I worked on an exhibition I would seek out a banner. Now we are able to help other people enjoy this great advertising art while keeping banners out of landfills and generating much-needed revenue for museums.
    Kind regards,
    Nora Weiser

  • avatar
    david evans Says:

    Since there is a market for these things, why not make it a requirement (for lack of a better word) that the signage be designed for sale? I’m sure the designers of these things would rise to the occasion. Think Toulouse-Latrec.

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