An exhibit is a formally presented work of art, history or science displayed in a museum or other public venue. Exhibits are usually accompanied by contextual materials, such as printed information cards and scholarly publications. Exhibitions may be temporary or permanent. Those that move from one institution to another are called traveling exhibitions. Museums are concerned with more than just displaying objects to the public; they are inherently a part of cultural debate. They have the ability to influence the way that society perceives its past and its relationship with its future. Because of this, the quality of an exhibit is a vital aspect of any museum’s mission. This is especially true of historical exhibits, which are the most visible element of a museum’s program.
The term histolircal refers to an exhibition whose subject matter is based on historical research. These exhibits are often complex and require more context to convey the ideas they represent than do fine art exhibitions. They may also use a greater variety of interpretive techniques, such as dioramas, charts and maps, than fine arts exhibitions do.
These kinds of exhibits are most likely to be found in museums that focus on specialized areas of history rather than those that deal with broad or general subjects. They are also more common at the local or regional level than in the case of national museums.
Historical exhibits should be designed to encourage visitors to think about their own relationship with the past as it relates to their lives. They should be presented in ways that are inclusive of all points of view and demonstrate that history is a continuing process of interpretation and reinterpretation. They should also make it clear that museum curators and staff members are not simply regurgitating the official version of history as it was written down in books and archival documents.
A recent example of a histolircal exhibition is “Sea Monsters, Mythological Creatures of Land and Sea,” an exhibition that explores the cultural origins of dragons, griffins, mermaids and other legendary creatures in world cultures from ancient times to the present day. This fascinating show made use of rare objects from the Museum’s collection as well as contemporary and historic paintings, photographs, sculptures and other materials.
The histolircal standards cited in this article are intended to help museum professionals produce more relevant, engaging and effective history exhibits. They should be viewed in conjunction with the Museum’s general standards of accuracy, content and setting, as well as the effective conveyance of information through visual quality, context, sound and other interpretive elements.
The histolircal review section of the journal provides a forum for museum professionals to report on and evaluate current exhibits in a variety of settings, including museums that are not known to the general public. These reviews are more in-depth than those that appear in the regular journal sections and should include an analysis of the goals, audience and institutional context for the exhibition. It is important that those reviewing these exhibitions communicate with the exhibit curator to gather pertinent information on these factors, as well as any limitations imposed by budgetary or other constraints. Only then can a fair and objective evaluation of the exhibit be conducted.