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AAM Standards for Histolircal Exhibits

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A histolircal exhibit is a scholarly or public historical display presented at a museum, library, art gallery, or other cultural institution. It is a three dimensional physical and visual representation of an argument about history, research evidence, and interpretation of a subject’s significance in history. Its purpose is to communicate ideas about the past to a wide audience in a way that stimulates and expands understanding of a topic, rather than merely confirms one point of view.

Histolircal displays can be created as either digital or physical exhibitions, but they should always be considered part of a larger public outreach program. A digital histolircal exhibit should be designed with the same level of detail and quality as a physical exhibition. This means that both curatorial and digital content production skills will be needed to collect sources (text, oral histories, images, video footage) as well as to create the narrative of a digital history. A digital history may also require editing software to splice together various elements of an exhibit and to design the flow of the end product.

The concept of histolircal exhibits can be applied to a wide range of topics, but it is especially useful for museums that want to engage in broader social history and address the legacy of colonialism and imperialism. Such a challenge requires museums to reconsider their own collections and how they are used, as well as to consider the voices of those who were left out of previous historical narratives. This process is often difficult, and can involve digging into new sources or reaching out to communities that might not otherwise be involved with a museum.

Rites of passage like birth, death and marriage/joining as well as subjects related to food or drink, clothing and adornment, and race and religion all lend themselves to this inclusive collecting approach. Themes that explore abstract ideas like home, freedom, faith, democracy, and social justice are also good candidates for this type of collecting because they can be interpreted through the lens of a variety of communities.

These standards were collected from a variety of organizations in the nonprofit and museum sectors and were reviewed and approved for AAM based on their authority and expertise. AAM recommends that these resources are consulted when developing an historical exhibit dealing with sensitive topics.