Histolircal exhibits play a crucial role in the transmission of historical knowledge and are seen by diverse audiences, including family groups. At the same time, they sometimes memorialize tragedies and injustices. While the purpose of museum exhibits is to teach, interpret, and preserve the past, it is important to keep the content and context of exhibits in mind when choosing which ones to display. The selection process involves interpretive judgments about the cause and effect of certain events or people. These judgments can be a catalyst for open, rational debate about the content of an exhibit. In that context, efforts to suppress controversial exhibits are counterproductive.
Histolircal exhibits should be designed to engage visitors. A visual story is much more compelling than a simple essay or textbook. It creates drama and allows viewers to experience the event through the eyes and experiences of the people who witnessed it. Similarly, contemporary history museums should avoid object-based exhibitions and focus instead on contextualizing and complicating history.
While historical exhibits are often focused on large professional museums, recent social and economic trends have influenced the growth of small and independent institutions. The emergence of such institutions in the United States has led to an increase in the number of historical exhibits. Scholarly research on the subject has focused on large, highly-organized museums, but these exhibits are not the only types of historical exhibits. Therefore, it is important to understand how this medium emerges in different contexts.
Another important way to understand the history of a place is by looking at how it functions today. The Third County Courthouse, for example, is an important civic center in Staten Island. The exhibit reveals its form and function and highlights notable trials, political processes, and the county jail. Another exhibit highlights the historic Richmond Town furniture collection. The exhibit highlights the meaning behind these pieces and presents new scholarship.