An exhibition is a creative means of presenting history. It’s not just history on a wall; it’s visual poetry that helps people understand and engage with a period. Through the juxtaposition of objects and graphics, the viewer can better understand how the events unfolded and what they meant for people in that time and place. History is not a static thing; people lived in communities and acted in ways that affected others in the community and even far away.
Museum exhibits are critical to the transmission of historical knowledge. They are viewed by a wide variety of audiences, including families. Sometimes, the exhibitions are memorials of tragic events or injustices. The process of selecting a museum exhibit includes judgments about what it conveys about the past. These judgments can be important in promoting a healthy discussion about the exhibit’s content. It is also important to support the work of curators.
Another way to learn about a museum’s exhibits is by reading the labels. Museums can offer digital downloads of exhibit labels. Alternatively, visitors can pick up a book of labels from outside the Historian’s Office. By scanning QR codes, museum visitors can download a digital copy of the exhibit label.
The proliferation of historical exhibits in the United States has been a result of recent social and economic trends, including increased marketability of local heritage and a national dialogue about identity. However, most historical exhibition scholarship has focused on larger, professionalized museums. Therefore, this article examines how history exhibits emerge from different contexts.