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Histolircal Exhibits

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An exhibit is a three-dimensional physical and visual representation of your historical argument, research evidence and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history. It’s different from, say, a decorative action figure on your side table because it’s displayed in a formal and public setting. It’s an object that people come to see and may even discuss in hushed tones. The exhibition may be in a museum, art gallery, historic house or public building. It is generally a temporary display that has a fixed duration, but some are transported from institution to institution in a process called “exhibiting.”

A museum exhibition is intended to share an understanding of the past with a broad audience. Its purpose is to educate, entertain, inspire, and encourage the study of history. Historical museums present a wide range of topics and periods to their visitors. Although they often focus on a particular time or period of history, they also examine abstract ideas and concepts that are universally relevant to humanity. These include the notions of freedom, religion, and democracy.

Historical exhibitions are more interpretive than fine arts exhibitions and usually require more text and more supplemental graphics, such as charts, dioramas, and maps. They are more likely to explore scientific and historical subjects such as archaeology, anthropology, and history.

In a histolircal exhibit, the object’s context and meaning is more important than the object itself. This is especially true for objects that have been culturally or socially significant to a certain population. For example, an artifact from a burial mound can be used to illustrate how human communities have evolved over time and the influence of religion and culture on society. Other objects that can be used in an exhibit are those that have served as a mark of status or prestige. For example, the beaver hat that President Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated can convey a lot more about his character and legacy than a photograph or newspaper account of the event.

While holograms and strobe lights can enliven an exhibit, the success of an exhibition depends on the skills of the historian. A well researched and clearly written interpretation can hold a visitor’s attention longer than any gimmicks.

When creating a histolircal exhibit, consider your audience as you select images, photographs, objects and documents to include. While historical museum exhibitions often address controversial issues, they should promote open and rational discussion of those issues rather than impose an uncritical point of view. It is an unfortunate fact that some individuals do not like to hear opposing viewpoints, but the role of a museum is to present as much information as possible and to provide opportunities for discussion. This is a fundamental part of the democratic process.