MSM Students create low-cost light boxes


Students Molly McVey, Marjorie Bontemps, and Gabrielle Miller discussing their work.


MSM students working together to create a nice picture on a low budget.


The final picture students were able to take using the light box.



Last week, as the second half of the Museum Science and Management’s class on Collection and Data Management began, students learned about easy and low-cost ways for smaller museums to start digitizing their collections. Graduate students Molly McVey and Ellica Spjut were given the task of leading a discussion on what steps smaller museums and institutions could take in creating an imaging studio. Knowing that smaller museums have tighter budgets, they decided to think outside of the box on how these institutions could start the digitization process. They came up with an interesting and low-cost idea: DIY light boxes.

McVey and Spjut started out the discussion by addressing the concerns many smaller institutions and museums face: few staff and lower budgets. Then they introduced their idea of make-it-yourself light boxes and split the class into two groups. They gave each of the two groups a cardboard box with rectangles cut out on four sides, tissue paper, and black or white poster board.

McVey and Spjut supervised and assisted while the two groups put together the light boxes by placing the poster board inside and taping it down, providing the perfect backdrop to take photos. Then the tissue paper was clipped around the top and sides, leaving the front open. Two lamps were used as light sources on either side of the tissue paper and an object, a coffee thermos, was placed inside. As you can see, the photos that come out are quite remarkable for such an easy, low-cost set up.

This was a simple activity designed to show young museum professionals how easy it can be to start putting together an imaging studio and to get the digitization process of artifacts started. Museums would most likely use a museum grade quality and acid-free cardboard and tissue paper to put together a light box. Smart, simple activities like these help students think creatively and prepare for future work in museums.


Museum Science and Management Student Lacey Faulkner