Kessler tells Monthly what designing COSI's traveling show Lost Egypt was like and more.
How long have you been at COSI?
I just had my 10-year anniversary.
What are the most surprising or challenging aspects of planning an exhibition?
At COSI, we're known for content and experience, so those are always going to be big drivers, but there's also everything from the cost of the exhibition, which includes not only the up-front cost, but how many trucks does it travel on, and where is it coming from? When it was built, did they build from the beginning as a traveling exhibition that breaks down and moves from place to place as easily as possible, or did they build a show and then decide afterward to travel it?
Of the exhibitions you've managed, do you have a favorite?
It's like trying to pick a favorite child. Titanic is such a gorgeous show-talk about a show with great environmental work, and what a strong story that show has. Then there are shows like Grossology, which is almost the exact opposite. Lots and lots of hands-on and, as you would expect, a lot of gross things are happening with that show: smells that are not necessarily polite to talk about in public, bodily functions-those sorts of things. I got to play a part in building our own traveling show, Lost Egypt. I actually got to go to Egypt in order to research that.
What was designing Lost Egypt like?
It starts with a concept; you have this idea that you want to tell, and with [Lost Egypt] it was that there's more to Egypt than pharaohs and gold. So from there, you break it down and start to think, how do we want to lay it out? We wanted to have strong hands-on component, but we also wanted to have some really compelling artifacts, and that can be a little scary when you're working with an outside lender who is letting you borrow their artifacts. It was just a fascinating process.