It’s one of the most interesting jobs at the ROM – the museum artist. Working in a studio soaked in natural light, Georgia Guenther creates replicas of objects in the collection and other artistic displays you may see inside the galleries. She works closely with curators to ensure her creations are both scientifically accurate and realistic.
We stopped by the studio to ask Georgia a few questions about her role at the ROM.
What piece on display in the Museum are you most proud of?
I have made lots of interesting pieces of artwork for blockbuster shows and temporary exhibitions, but the exposure period is limited. One piece that has had the power to enchant for 27 years is the scale model of the Iroquois longhouse on display in the Canada’s First Peoples Gallery. There are many little figures going about their daily life as it might have been in traditional Iroquois culture. It is satisfying to know that people who remember it from their childhood visits to the ROM now bring their own children to see it. I have a small box of leftover bits and pieces and I sometimes talk to groups of visitors about the details of making that model.
What is the most interesting/challenging aspect of your job?
Every project is a different challenge. This keeps the job fresh and fascinating. It is a privilege to learn about so many aspects of the world, life forms and cultures.
As the ways we communicate with our visitors evolve, my creative solutions must rise to the challenge. As an example, the ROM now has an initiative to put more touchable objects on display. This opens up a whole new level of experience for our visitors. The challenge for me is to make replicas that are true to the original but strong enough for thousands of hands to touch.
What materials do you work with in the Studio?
As a museum artist I am a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. I work with a variety of materials and technologies, from standard art supplies for two dimensional work, the computer of course, but mostly sculpting materials such as plaster, wax, traditional clay, modern epoxy clay, and paper mache.
Will we see any of your creations in Ultimate Dinosaurs?
Although there is a lot of artwork in Ultimate Dinos, it was done by Dino experts outside the ROM. My contribution was very small. I made the little plaques that children can rub over with a special tool to make images in the family activity booklet.
However, I am currently making a four-foot scale model of the 110-foot Futalognkosaurus skeleton that now graces the main Lobby of the ROM. This model will be on display near the skeleton and will be specifically for our visually impaired visitors. Since this model will represent the flesh and skin of the dinosaur, it’s also a significant addition to the interpretation of the skeleton for all of our visitors.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Museum artists?
I think it takes a particular artistic temperament to shine in the museum context. The museum artist uses his or her skills in the service of scholarly accuracy and public engagement. It is not about self-expression. It’s really about enabling the visitor to see something that is only possible through artwork. This requires synthesizing diverse bits of information into a new view. There is a lot of detail work, both in the making of things and also in the thinking process that ensures the artwork integrates with all the other complex aspects of an exhibit.
Gallery of Georgia’s Work