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Interpretive planning

Writing interpretive text

The text in your exhibition will help to guide visitors and will also bring your exhibition to life for them.

You will need to create interpretive text for the introductory panel, each of the sections and the item labels. This will help visitors understand why you have chosen to display these items, what links them together and, most importantly, what your key messages are.

Make sure you have planned your exhibition layout before you begin writing. If you know how items relate to each other in the display, this will help you make decisions about what to include in your text. See planning the exhibition layout.

Some general rules

  • Assume people do not know what they are looking at and need to be drawn in to the item. Point out what is interesting about it.
  • Keep text brief. People come to an exhibition to look at objects, not to read. We recommend the following word limits:
    • Introduction panel - up to 160 words
    • Section description - up to 100 words
    • Section label - up to 50 words
  • Use short sentences
  • Briefly explain any terms visitors might not understand
  • Adopt a single text style for the exhibition. Use the same fonts throughout. Bold and large text can emphasise headings and key information.
  • Choose simple fonts, such as Arial
  • Choose font sizes that are large enough to be read easily – at least size 12 for the body of the text.
  • Think about making the text interactive – for example, are there questions you would like your audience to think about and try to answer?

Example of how to format item labels

  • Title
  • Description
  • Reference

For example:

Old Rectory Sale Catalogue, 1922

This was produced when the Old Rectory was auctioned in 1922. It gives a detailed description of the house and gardens. It also shows the interior. During World War II, the original railings from the garden wall were removed and melted down for the war effort.

Ref: PRQ1/34/2

Interpretive planning survey:

Fill out this survey to let us know your thoughts on the interpretive planning guide.