Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Leave Your Desk Behind: Thoughts on Outdoor Exhibits
I collaborated on the outdoor exhibit of Borderlands, a project of fellow Fulbrighter Olga Trusova. The exhibit, supported by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, was mounted in Shevchenko Park, a beautiful park in the center of the city. Borderlands is a comic book that tells 7 stories of human trafficking--you can read more here. The use of the comic book format (drawn by Dan Archer) is an unusual way to tell compelling, important human stories, and equally unusual to then convert it to an exhibit.
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud as a great way to expand thinking about exhibits and what we do). I'm enough of a museum nerd that I find it incredibly exciting to watch people stop and read and think about what we do.
Institute for Museum and Library Services, I've worked with the Montgomery County Historical Society in Rockville, MD on a project that also got history out into the community. Montgomery Connections uses banners, bus stop ads, and a website to engage, in three different languages, non-yet museum visitors in the history of the county. Using the tag line, Did You Ever Wonder? the print materials introduced visitors to authentic characters from county history and invited them to call a phone number to learn a bit more. In our formative evaluation, we learned some surprising things about what interested who.
But a voice message (after listening to the audio, callers were invited to leave a comment) reinforced for me how important it is that we get out of our offices, out of our museums, and out into the community. After listening to an audio about the first Chinese immigrant to the county in the early 20th century, a Spanish-speaking listener commented (this is a rough paraphrase) "I am here in this country alone--and listening to this has given me hope for my future."
Think history doesn't matter? Think again.