Merchants and Mandarins section of exhibition Celestial City: Sydney's Chinese Story, featuring colourful Shanghai style lanterns at the Museum of Sydney. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums EPU14_CEL_039

The Designer's Task

Ever wondered how an exhibition is put together? Come behind-the-scenes and meet Matthew Guzowski as he shares his experiences, influences and tells it like it is in the world of exhibition design.

Matthew Guzowski has worked at Sydney Living Museums since early 2012. Before running his own interiors and exhibition design practice, he worked at Questacon: the National Science and Technology Centre, Canberra, which is Australia’s biggest children’s museum and technology centre.

Recently he was the 3D exhibition designer for the exhibition Celestial City: Sydney's Chinese Story, on display at the Museum of Sydney (29 March - 12 October 2014). Matthew says his role is a diverse one that involves both the conceptual storytelling development at the start of the exhibition process as well as the technical design and build later on in the process. 

At the start it’s about working with the curator to understand the content and begin to work out the constraints for displaying or communicating that content. Then later on, it’s about liaising with fabricators, construction workers, joiners, builders, and others, for the production process.

Senior Exhibitions Designer Matthew Guzowski stands in front of a sandstone wall at Sydney's The Mint building
Matthew Guzowski, Senior Exhibition Designer, Interpretation and Exhibitions team Photo © Sydney Living Museums

Interview with Matt Guzowski

Watch the video below as exhibition designer, Matt Guzowski, talks about the process behind developing Celestial City: Sydney's Chinese Story at the Museum of Sydney (29 March - 12 October 2014)

The diverse colour palette and vitality was inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and from the joss houses that were around NSW at the time. For the Chinese immigrant communities working the goldfields, their joss houses provided a little microcosm of their culture. In some ways they look really garish as they had all these crazy colours and conflicting things, but it was like a little multivitamin of their culture that they could take. 

A hasty INstallation 

Have a giggle and watch the team from SLM speed through the installation of Celestial City: Sydney Chinese Story at the Museum of Sydney (29 March - 12 October 2014). This time lapse video shows the installation in just a few minutes - in real time this actually took two and a half weeks. 

Most of the design starts with the 3D designer and then flows into the graphic designer, but out of a 12 month process there are probably about eleven and a half months of pure overlapping collaboration and then a couple of weeks either side where I get the start and Bruce [Smythe, graphic designer] has the finish. Bruce refines it and makes it better.

Image Gallery

Scroll through images featuring just some of the inspiration for the design of the Celestial City exhibition and photographs from the finished product.

About the Author

Colour photograph head and shoulders portrait of woman with long brown hair and glasses
Veronica Kooyman
Assistant Curator
Interpretation & Exhibitions
Veronica has worked in museums since 2009 and has been fortunate to work at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour and the National Motor Museum in the Adelaide Hills where she had far too much fun riding around in vintage cars. She now works with the exhibitions team at Sydney Living Museums where she is constantly learning new and fascinating stories from her home city.
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