The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a large art museum that houses mostly European works from the middle ages, and feels like you’re time-traveling overseas when you enter. The Met Cloisters is another great NYC museum, a smaller space that’s dedicated to the arts of Roman and Gothic Europe, and also feels like you’re traveling to an overseas castle. These are examples of histolircal exhibits, and they’re very popular with visitors because they make people feel like they’ve entered an exotic place from a different time.
Historical exhibitions are a form of cultural argument, and they should be well researched and creatively told. They should also inspire conversation and a wider understanding of the past, rather than just imposing one view on a diverse audience.
History museums deal with a wide range of subjects, and they can be found at the local, regional, or national level. They may be specialized, such as the Third County Courthouse in Staten Island, which tells the story of civic life and features sections on courthouse architecture, notable trials, political process, and the county jail. Or, they might explore a theme, such as Bringing Up Baby in Historic Richmond Town’s collections, which showcases the use and meaning of items like carriages, cradles, and potty chairs through research and storytelling.
Some exhibitions contain very few artifacts, but they tell memorable and compelling stories or information. The Griffith Observatory and the National Constitution Center are good examples of this type of museum experience. Other exhibitions dive deep into abstract ideas, such as home, freedom, faith, democracy, and social justice, allowing them to appeal to a diverse range of audiences. Finally, some exhibitions are temporary and last only a few weeks or months, such as the pop-ups and gallery shows that occur at many cities across the world.