Creating Local History Exhibits

Going Local: Creating Local History Exhibits Your Visitors Won't Forget

This five-part online workshop series will teach you the fundamental skills and concepts you need to understand how to incorporate local Texas history stories into your exhibits – especially traveling exhibits. We’ll begin by reviewing the vast array of Texas history resources available to you, move on to discuss the fundamentals of interpretive planning and writing, and then, explore ways to make your exhibit text more engaging and thought-provoking to visitors. Once we’ve covered the basics, we’ll examine techniques for interpreting those difficult stories that make everyone squirm. Finally, we’ll end with a session on how to select the most compelling images available and create a visually appealing and engaging exhibit. By the end of this series, you’ll be well prepared to infuse your local history stories into any exhibit – traveling, temporary, or permanent!

Instructor Erin McClelland has 15 years of experience in the interpretation and exhibit planning field. She currently serves as the Director of Operations for MuseWork, a full-service exhibit planning and design firm in Austin.

Click here to register for this free online workshop series.

This workshop series is supported by the Texas Department of Transportation. Watch this video (17 minutes) to learn more about local history resources available from TxDOT.

Looking for technical guidelines related to exibition design, such as fonts, materials, and production? This guidebook offers lots of helpful infomation.

Make Them Care, Part 1:
How to Create More Memorable and Compelling Exhibits through Interpretation

We begin by reviewing the many places you can search for local, regional, and statewide history resources. Then we introduce the basics of interpretation: what is it, why it's effective, and how to make your exhibits more relevant to visitors using concepts like themes and universals. Finally, we wrap up the session by introducing Sam Ham's three-step process for theme writing. Participants will leave this webinar with an understanding of how to reach your visitors more effectively through the writte word. Next week we'll discuss how to build on a theme to create an entire interpretive exhibit.

Webinar Recording
Slides
Handout 1
Handout 2
Handout 3
Handout 4

Make Them Care, Part 2:
How to Create More Memorable and Compelling Exhibits through Interpretation

Building on the previous week's webinar, this time we explored ways you can build on an interpretive theme to create a conceptual framework for your entire exhibit. WIth a special emphasis on hierarchy and repetition, we discuseed techniques to make your exhibits clearer, easier to follow, and most importantly, more memorable for your visitors.


Webinar Recording
Slides
Handout

Give ‘Em Something to Talk (and Think) About:
Strategies for Engaging and Provoking Exhibit Audiences

We discuss how you can make your exhibits more engaging and thought-provoking to visitors, focusing on how the tone and voice of your labels signal to visitors early on about how to engage with your exhibits. We also look at specific techniques for writing more active, engaging labels that get visitors thinking and talking more about the stories your exhibits tell.


Webinar Recording
Slides
Handout 1
Handout 2 
Handout 3

Well, That Was Awkward:
Interpreting Difficult Stories in Your Exhibits

We all have those difficult stories in our collections: stories of oppression, injustice, discord, and disgrace that are uncomfortable to remember and discuss in private, let alone in a public space. That doesn't make them any less important to tell, though. In fact, your exhibits can become a place where people feel more comfortable exploring these tough topics. We'll explore exactly what makes these stories so difficult for people to grapple with and accept, and review various writing and exhibit design techniques you can use to help your visitors better engage with these challenging topics. 

Webinar recording, slides, and resources will be posted following the live webinar on Thursday, August 13 at 10:00 a.m. CT.

Made You Look!:
How to Select Visuals that Will Keep Visitors Engaged with Your Exhibits

We often focus closely on the words in an exhibit to the exclusion of other elements, forgetting that exhibits are an inherently visual medium. If your visual components—photos, graphics, maps, etc.—aren't compelling, you aren't reaching as many visitors as you could. We'll discuss how you can use high-quality images and visuals to maintain audience interest, and give you guidelines for selecting the right type of visual in a given situation. Then we'll do a deep dive into photography and explore what makes a photograph "exhibit worthy." We'll wrap up by reviewing the dos and don'ts of font selection and panel composition.

Webinar recording, slides, and resources will be posted following the live webinar on Thursday, August 20 at 10:00 a.m. CT.


 


Going Local: Creating Local History Exhibits Your Visitors Won't Forget
 is a collaboration between the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas Association of Museums, and the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street program.

Water/Ways has been made possible in Texas by the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a Smithsonian program that brings traveling exhibitions and humanities programs to small-town America. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.​