Curating Controversial Exhibits

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The Public Historian publishes articles about the latest historical exhibits, performances, and historical built environments. Articles review exhibits at both large, nationally known museums and smaller, local institutions. Comparative essays also appear in The Public Historian. Such essays compare two exhibits to show how they differ. For example, a comparative essay compares two different museums that feature the same exhibition. Similarly, a descriptive essay compares two exhibits that are similar but with varying degrees of detail.

Among the most challenging aspects of curating historical exhibits is deciding whether to include controversial content. While many museums do not display content that might provoke passionate debates, some exhibits may spark lively discussions. If this is the case, a controversial exhibition may be worth showing because it will provoke a broader discussion on the subject. However, it is important to note that a polarized discussion is counterproductive.

For example, an exhibition about the history of food, clothing, or religion is an excellent example of an alternative theme. In such a case, museums can explore more abstract ideas while still presenting important historical events. By presenting such diverse ideas in a non-traditional manner, viewers can gain a broader understanding of the past and learn more about themselves. Aside from learning about a new cultural tradition, visitors will also gain insight into the people who lived there.

Another example of a unique historical exhibit is one of the DuPage County Historical Museum. This museum is located at 102 E. Wesley Street in Wheaton. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcome. The museum encourages donations of $2 or more. These small fees will help the museum provide the resources and knowledge needed to host a successful exhibit.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, there’s an exhibition to suit your interests. The Oregon Historical Society recently partnered with Visiting Media to showcase their Windows on America exhibit. The new interactive exhibit features all of the same content as the physical exhibition, with digital enhancements such as a close-up view of artifacts. The exhibit also features audio recordings and videos with OHS Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk.