Matagorda County Museum Our Blog The Art of Creating Histolircal Exhibits

The Art of Creating Histolircal Exhibits

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histolircal exhibits

The nation’s history museums interpret the past to millions of visitors each year. While well-known institutions like the National Museum of American History, Colonial Williamsburg, and Chicago Historical Society attract a large share of this audience, many smaller organizations and local museums also perform a valuable service for their communities. They provide an opportunity for citizens to learn about and discuss the history of their homes, neighborhoods, states, or countries in a way that scholarly monographs and popular media can’t. The exhibit medium offers a unique way of presenting the past that draws upon a rich array of cultural objects, research, and pedagogical techniques to create powerful and accessible experiences.

History is a complex and often controversial subject. Even exhibitions that aim to convey factual information, celebrate common events, or memorialize tragedies and injustices make interpretive judgments about cause and effect, perspective, significance, and meaning. Attempts to suppress an exhibit’s content or to impose an uncritical point of view, however widely shared, are antithetical to the mission of history museums. The exhibit process requires the participation of a variety of individuals with varying interests and expertise, from the initial idea to the final installation. This is particularly true when a museum exhibit is presented in an historic structure, where there may be limitations on how objects can be fastened to walls, ceilings, or floors; restrictions on colors and finishes; and the need to preserve the integrity of the historic building.

Successful exhibits rely on a multi-faceted approach to history that includes scholarship and writing, but is equally grounded in management and interpersonal skills, knowledge of material culture, and visual literacy. They offer a window into the dense research required when composing an exhibition and, at the same time, they expand our understanding of history by combining ideas, interpretation, visual images, and re-created spaces.

This exhibition explored the deep and enduring relationship between horses and humans. It traced the evolution of the horse family from its fossil origins to the early interactions with humans that led to domestication, and showed how horses have changed warfare, trade, transportation, agriculture, sports, and many other aspects of human life over the ages. The exhibition included spectacular dinosaur fossils and cultural objects from around the world, including a spectacular sculpture of a steed by artist Robert Irwin.

The Third County Courthouse was the center of civic life in Staten Island for over a century, and this exhibition showcased some of its most notable trials, political figures, and judicial processes through photographs, documents, and artifacts. This exhibition complemented an online collection of the Museum’s historic records and offered new perspectives on the role of courts and civic life in the United States.