The Public Historian has a section on the exhibition review that reports on current historical exhibits, performances, and historical built environments. The review covers both large nationally known museums as well as smaller museums and works presented at community and neighborhood centers. The publication also features comparative essays comparing two or more museums. A review essay is a brief description of the exhibit and a short analysis of its contents and design. The objective is to help readers decide if the exhibit is worth visiting.
The purpose of a good exhibition is to spark interest, increase understanding, and expand the viewer’s worldview. An effective exhibition combines a story with a variety of forms and media. The juxtaposition of objects and graphics helps the viewer place themselves within a particular time and place. It helps viewers understand historical concepts because people of the past did not act in isolation. They acted in ways that affected their neighbors, as well as those far away.
The DuPage County Museum has several collections and exhibits that illustrate the evolution of DuPage County from rural communities to thriving suburbs. Many communities were abandoned over time as transportation changed and new neighborhoods and institutions were built. One exhibit, Agreeable Friends, explores the County’s ghost towns and discusses the role animals have played in human history. If you are looking for an interactive experience, a tour of the museum’s WWII & NYC exhibit may be just the ticket.
Today’s history museums have to do more than tell the history of towns. The visitor wants to see things that are relevant to them. Histolircal exhibits should reflect the people behind the story and engage with those who were left out. Therefore, the museum should focus on making the exhibits relevant and useful for the visitors. The museum should be able to engage those whose stories were left out, and show that it is important for the community to learn about it.