As the exhibit coordinator of the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Cristina Winston is normally designing and installing immersive experiences for the museum. But over the course of the last year, as the pandemic caused the institute to temporarily close to the public, she has adapted and expanded her skill set to include digital exhibit design and photographic technologies.
One of her first projects after moving to remote work was to create a museum style guide. She made progress from her home computer and prepared a playbook for the exhibit design and fabrication processes.
“The new document outlines writing style, colors, measurements and other technical specifications,” she said. “We want to be sure that our experiences comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act so that our space is accessible to the entire community.”
She spent most of the summer rescheduling planned exhibitions and returning items that were borrowed, but in the fall, she began exploring new approaches to digital exhibitions.
Winston joined colleagues in assisting professor Alegra Lozano’s honors course in preparing a virtual exhibit. The course challenged students to create an ofrenda, a traditional Mexican altar with a collection of objects, placed on display during Day of the Dead commemorations. Students reimagined the Mexican ritual and, in doing so, created an ofrenda completely online—the first of its kind at UTSA.
“It was so wonderful to help the students reimage what a class project could be,” Winston said. “We were able to create an immersive experience not only for the visitors to the site, but also for the students looking for an experiential learning environment. They practiced real-world skills and really embraced collaboration, innovation and experimentation.”
“I’m excited to blend physical experiences with virtual ones, it helps to tell a more complete story of culture.”
Cristina Winston, Exhibits Coordinator
Additionally, Winston is part of the team that is creating the digital architecture for a virtual tour of the Sharecropper Cabin that will be released later this year. She helped to capture images and 3-D renderings of featured objects.
“It’s really taking the museum experience to a new level by enhancing the accessibility to the objects on the exhibit floor,” she said.
Winston also has contributed the ongoing cleanup project happening behind the scenes at the institute. The project required a deep clean of the artifact room while moving the entire collection to a staging area and back. The UTSA facilities team addressed the artifact room while conservators inspected artifacts to assess their condition. A cleanup project on the main exhibit floor followed.
“It was taxing work but important to maintain the objects, collections and public areas in great condition,” Winston said. “We can’t wait for our museum visitors to enjoy the spaces again.”
Winston hopes that by the time the museum reopens to patrons, she will be able to put into practice many of the skills she has acquired during remote work.
“I’m excited to blend physical experiences with virtual ones,” she said. “It helps to tell a more complete story of culture. Not only can you experience the institute in person, but you can also revisit it from home using our digital components.”