I'm currently working on the copy-editing of the ____________ for a Museum of Ethnography exhibit that gives some fascinating insights into the archaeological process and the history of the items on display.

Apologies, the title isn't quite accurate, but it's the closest term that I could think of.

I'm looking for the word or term (if any exists) for explanatory texts that accompany artwork or museum pieces/collections.

I don't think "label" is appropriate, as these are usually quite short. I'm referring to texts of a paragraph or several paragraphs, and that provide context and background. They are found next to the exhibit in question, or (for longer texts) in an accompanying guidebook.

Some examples here, and here.

Thank you for any suggestions!

  • Perhaps blurb although that's more usually used for a book, or a film. Feb 2 '19 at 17:43
  • @WeatherVane I did think of blurb, but it sounds a bit informal, almost dismissive, like marketing jargon-heavy information on a company's website. The setting here is more of an academic/cultural one.
    – Matt S.
    Feb 2 '19 at 20:02
  • Maybe you'd prefer 'caption' (the explanatory comment or designation accompanying a pictorial illustration"). merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caption. Also see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_label.
    – Řídící
    Feb 2 '19 at 21:20
  • The physical item can be called a museum placard. But I'm in the camp that says the writing is called a label.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 2 '19 at 23:49

Sorry, but label is the actual term! There is also something called a catalogue, which is the brochure or book you can get when touring the exhibit or at the museum gift ship. Here is a recent example from an art critic discussing an exhibition at the British National Gallery (London Review of Books, 24 Jan 2019):

But as reservations are almost never expressed, in the catalogue or on the labels, about the traditional attribution of works that have been loaned, the impact of such comparisons tends to be rather muted.

You can see from the context that the writer is referring to a longer type of caption, since the short plaque would be too small for comments about disputed attribution.

  • Thank you. It occurred to me belatedly to supply a couple of sample images, to help illustrate what I'm referring to. I'll add them to my OP. So you would call these 'labels', too? And if they're too long to accompany the exhibit and instead feature in the catalogue, would they still be called labels, or would you call them catalogue texts?
    – Matt S.
    Feb 3 '19 at 16:33
  • @MattS. yes it seems those are called labels. Here's an example from the same magazine of an art critic referring to catalogue text (note how they give attribution to a fellow art critic when discussing an essay appearing in an exhibition catalogue): The oddness and severe limits of this artistic education, which Elizabeth Prettejohn emphasizes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition of Burne-Jones's work at Tate Britain... (I'm not an art critic, I just read LRB!)
    – user31341
    Feb 3 '19 at 23:48

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