Matagorda County Museum Our Blog Perspectives on Historical Exhibits

Perspectives on Historical Exhibits

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Museums have a unique opportunity to present history to the public in ways that are not only educational and informative but also exciting, entertaining, and emotionally engaging. The use of objects, graphics, photographs, re-created spaces, and interactive devices can all contribute to an exhibit that is more than just “history put up on the wall.” Exhibits can be visual poetry and imagination, sparking curiosity rather than just imparting information. They can be the vehicle for a story, a drama, or a debate and they should be designed to promote artists, innovators and industries as well as educate and inform.

Many of the best historical museum experiences are created by exhibition designers who combine scholarly research with the creative interjection of art, design, and multimedia. These “exhibition experiences” provide the visitor with a sense of place and time, a deeper understanding of a subject, and a lasting impression on the viewer. Exhibits can also serve as an important source of inspiration for teachers and students who wish to create their own history exhibits.

In this issue, Perspectives focuses on exhibitions that address the broad scope of human history. While we occasionally will examine noted accomplishments in museums and collections, innovative programs, or important collecting initiatives, the majority of the content will be devoted to reviewing specific historic exhibitions. This emphasis is based on the belief that exhibitions are the most important means by which museums communicate their message of history to visitors.

The exhibits reviewed in this issue explore some of the great adventures and achievements of humanity. They show how people from all walks of life shared and influenced each other. They also demonstrate that the past did not exist in isolation, but impacted people near and far.

One of the most significant contributions of this series is to highlight the importance of collaboration between academic and museum professionals in the development of historical exhibitions. Far too often, the work of museum curators goes uncritically unrecognized by their peers in the academy. By publishing these reviews, the column helps to foster this vital exchange and provides a permanent record that will outlive the individual exhibitions themselves.

This exhibition explored the complex cultural and natural history origins of some of the world’s most enduring mythological creatures of land, sea, and air. It brought to light the surprising similarities and differences in the way that cultures around the globe envisioned dragons, griffins, mermaids, and unicorns.

The museum experience can also include an exploration of the ways in which humans have adorned themselves with tattoos, piercing, body painting, and scarification. This exhibition showed how these practices have changed over the centuries and how they continue to shape culture in a variety of ways.