Activity: Write a Museum Label

Activity: Write a Museum Label - Body

Books displayed in a glass case alongside museum labels.

Each object in a museum has a sign called a “label.” Labels are written by people who work at the museum. Label writers try to help people look at the objects and think about them in new ways.

Labels are often short, but they are a lot of work to write! There are whole books written about how to write labels. Writers work very hard to craft just the right words. Label writers try to write text that is interesting to their audience.

glass display case containing three herbarium specimen

When they write, they make decisions about what they will focus on in their writing. Will they talk about the materials the artist used? Will they talk about the history of the artwork, or the time in which the artwork was made? Will they talk about something else? These are important decisions for the label writer! The choices label writers make affect how the audience looks at and thinks about the objects.

Here are some tips for writing a museum label:

  • Respond to the question "What am I looking at?” Help people understand what they are seeing. What do you think might be confusing about this object? What might people not notice?
  • Respond to the question “Why should I care about this?” Help people feel interested in the object. What makes this object cool or exciting? Can people make connections between the object and their own lives?
  • Labels should be for everyone! Use language that is easy to read. Don't make sentences too long.
  • As a label writer, it is your hardest job to figure out which information you should include and which information should you exclude. Experiment by writing different versions.