From Chaos to Order: Working with a class to create an exhibit

Posting on behalf of Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives:

The Special Collections Research Center has an ongoing collaboration with the Museum Studies program at FSU. The Museum Object course teaches students the fundamentals of museum exhibit creation and installation. In our collaboration, students from the class are given a broad topic and guidance towards collection areas and create an exhibit from our materials. At the end of the semester they install the physical exhibit, most often in our primary exhibit room, and create an online companion exhibit.

Students begin the course with little to no knowledge of our collections and little to no experience creating exhibits. They end the course having worked through all the stages of exhibit design and installation and walk away with a new, important understanding of process and our materials.

Students work through materials to include int he exhibit.
Students work through materials to include in the exhibit.

Over the 2014 fall semester, 8 students from Amy Bowen’s Museum Object class did research on the Battle of Natural Bridge, a Civil War battle in March 1865 that FSU cadets participating in. Students were asked to find and research materials and create an exhibit that highlighted the battle itself, as well has broader themes of community, campus, veterans, and then and now.

Myself and staff from the Research Center, Digital Library Center, and Heritage Protocol worked with the students to teach them about our collections, to help them connect with the State Archives and other campus entities, to digitize and help produce the materials to be put on exhibit, and to work side by side with them during installation.

Installation Day for the exhibit
Installation Day for the exhibit
Installation Day for the exhibit
As you can see, chaotic it can be!

The magic, and immense value, of this kind of partnership is the laboratory nature of the project and the hands on engagement we can provide students. There are times when it is chaotic, when you don’t know what the end product will be, when you’re not sure there will be an end product, when communication appears to have broken down, and when the students make a last minute, last ditch effort to pull together all the parts of something totally new for them. I am always amazed by what the students see in our collections and how they chose to publicly interpret materials and events.

The Battle of Natural Bridge: Bridging Past and Present is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm in the main exhibit gallery on the first floor of Strozier Library. The online exhibit can be viewed here: http://naturalbridge150.omeka.net/

A look at the finished exhibit
From chaos, comes an ordered story
The finished exhibit
The finished exhibit

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