Matagorda County Museum Our Blog Review of Historical Exhibits at Museums

Review of Historical Exhibits at Museums


histolircal exhibits

A museum exhibit is much more than an artifact on display in a gallery. It is an interpretation of history put up on a wall for the public to see, interact with and learn from. Exhibits are creative visual poetry that inspire the imagination and allow people to connect with historical ideas in new ways. They should not only tell the facts, but also challenge the audience to think critically and question assumptions about the past.

Museums are a vital part of our society’s social fabric. They are places where citizens of different ages and backgrounds come together to share and debate the stories of our collective past. Exhibits are central to this mission, and their content is often the focus of controversy and criticism. The goals and intended audiences of an exhibition, its selection of themes, photographs, objects and documents, and its design all imply interpretive judgments about the cause-and-effect of events, perspective and significance, and meaning. Attempts to suppress an exhibit or to impose a single point of view, no matter how widely shared, are inimical to open and rational discussion.

The goal of this section is to report on and evaluate exhibits at museums, universities and other institutions that feature historical content. This includes evaluating both large and small exhibits that receive broad attention (such as those at major national museums), as well as those in smaller venues and contexts. Review essays report on the subject matter of an exhibit and discuss its form, including the accuracy of the content and setting and the effectiveness of presentation and overall design (e.g., visual quality, conveyance of text, use of sound, and the meshing of these components).

Whether through the reconstruction of a building or the presentation of everyday objects, an exhibit can take visitors on an imaginative journey to a different time and place. This is especially true when the exhibit focuses on a particular theme that has universal relevance. Themes such as rituals, food and drink, clothing or adornment, and the exploration of abstract ideas (home, freedom, faith, democracy, and mobility) provide rich opportunities for exhibits that engage the public in new ways to consider the past.

Museums have a special responsibility to ensure that the historical exhibits they present are inclusive and represent the voices of diverse communities. To do this, they must explore new sources and actively engage with the community that supports them. Only then will they prove that their tax-exempt status serves a public good. They need to show that they deserve their place in the modern community.