This Week in History: You’ll never guess what an exhibit fabrication specialist does

This Week in History: You'll never guess what an exhibit fabrication specialist does

Founded in 1886, the Royal BC Museum strives to share the story of our province with the millions who visit each year.

It also hopes to inspire curiosity and wonder, and that task falls mainly to the exhibit fabrication specialists.

Jana Stefan is one of the team of six.

“We like to think that we make all the things that nobody else in the world knows how to make,” Stefan said.

“We range from a metalsmith and jewelry maker to a trained carpenter, to sculptors, and myself with a fine arts background, we’re sort of just jack-of-all-trades. We’re basically responsible for making everything that you see on exhibit upstairs in the museum.”

And Stefan means everything. From building showcases and mounts for artifacts, to creating plants, rocks, landscapes, and even food.

“Anywhere there’s food in the exhibit we always make a replica, because if we had real food in there, it would rot or attract bugs, so we make fake food,” Stefan said.

The department maintains all the exhibits too, which entails checking and changing all the light bulbs, making sure all systems, from sounds effect to the waterwheel, are working, and even feeding the critters in the tidepool.

“There’s a lot of sort of daily things that make the museum magic, that again, people don’t think about needing to be worked on all the time, but they do,” Stefan said.

Stefan was creating licoriceroot, commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, for the Old Town gallery.

“We have a big basket of it up there, so I’m just making enough licorice root to fill the basket, so that people can see what it actually looks like,” Stefan said.

“It is quite rare for museums to actually have an exhibit studio like this, and so, for example, the American Natural History Museum will often schedule us in the middle of a run to make sure that everything can get maintained part way through, so that’s a nice relationship we have with them.”

Stefan said the most valuable skill each of the six fabricators has, is the ability to come up with solutions to unique, challenging, and sometimes bizarre, requests.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s challenging, and there’s something new that we never could have expected happening every day.”

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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