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Curate an Exhibition

Play the role of curator and design an exhibition from home, then share it with us using the hashtag #DIYExhibit.

Have you ever wondered how a museum exhibition is put together? Have you ever wanted to play the role of curator? Now’s your chance! Be inspired by everyday items and curate your very own exhibition at home. Work with an adult, follow the activity instructions, and be sure to read Tim’s tips to make your exhibition a reality — Tim is one of the Museum’s very own curators (check out his bio at the bottom of the page). An unbelievable museum experience awaits!

Looking for inspiration? Take a virtual tour of one of our permanent exhibitions, the Canadian History Hall.

We can’t wait to see what you create. Share your exhibition with us using the hashtag #DIYExhibit!

Activity Instructions

To make things a little easier, we’ve broken the process of making your exhibition a reality into five simple steps.


Step 1: Creative development

Perhaps the most important element of an exhibition is its message. Ask yourself, what story do I want to tell? What message do I want to get across? Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:

Step 2: Logistics

Now that you’ve identified your exhibition’s message, your next job is to share it. And to do that, you will need a space for your exhibition. This is an important decision because the size of the space will determine both the size and the number of objects you can include. For example, if you are doing an exhibition on jewellery, it would be best to have a small space, but if you are doing an exhibition on furniture, you will need a big space.

Step 3: Curation

You have a story, you have a space, now what? This is where things get fun. It’s time to choose the items in your exhibition by writing down a list of objects in your home that would be good to include.

Unfortunately, you may find that you cannot include all the objects on your list. This means you will have to make difficult decisions about what does and does not get included. This is the work of a curator.

Tim’s tip! Ask yourself:

  • What items best tell the story of my exhibition?
  • How will these objects work together to tell the story of my exhibition?
  • Will the objects fit in my exhibition space?

Step 4: Scenography and set-up

It’s time to set things up. To begin, write out labels for the objects in your exhibition with some information like the object’s name, the date it was made, and the material it is made from. For objects that are extra important, you may want to add a little more information explaining why the object is important to the exhibition’s story.

To make things look professional, you can decorate cardboard boxes to use as mounts for your objects, and set up lighting to get the right atmosphere.

Once all the materials are ready, you can set up your objects.

Tim’s tip! Try to keep the text to a maximum of 50 words for each object. It’s harder than you think.

Step 5: Grand opening

The time has arrived for your grand opening! Create invitations for members of your household using coloured pencils, paper and other craft materials. You can also invite friends and family to participate in the grand opening online through a video conference call.

Before the big moment, make sure that everything is just right. Make any last-minute adjustments, then invite the members of your household and online guests to see the exhibition. You may want to make a little speech, or maybe not, but be ready for questions from your audience.

It’s now time to enjoy what you’ve created. Host a small reception with snacks and juice.

If you want to show the world your exhibition, take a picture of it and share using the hashtag #DIYExhibit.

Congratulations, curator!

A little bit about Tim!

Father carrying son on shoulders

Tim Foran is the Curator of British North America at the Canadian Museum of History. He is a specialist in 19th century history and is the curator responsible for Gallery 2 (Colonial Canada, 1763–1914) in the Canadian History Hall. His favourite artifact in the Museum’s collection is the portable writing desk used by David Thompson to map much of present-day western Canada in the 1790s and early 1800s. His favourite part of museum life is working with brilliant and creative people, and his favourite thing in the world is playing music with his two-year-old son.