The role of collections in story driven experiences
A topic of discussion throughout the seminar this year has been the role of authentic artifacts in story driven experiences. Last Saturday Dan Spock got us started on this with his discussion of approaches to exhibitions at the Minnesota Historical Society, where authentic objects from the collection appear to take a back seat to reproductions and props that visitors can handle. On Thursday of this week the class focused on collections, hearing first from Michele Gates Moresi about the development of a collection from scratch at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in 2015. She described the interplay between the stories they intend to tell, the material they are acquiring, and the architectural design of the building. It’s a dynamic give-and-take. Steve Haller from the Indiana Historical Society followed Michele with a presentation on their collection policies and practices. Since we are meeting at IHS we toured the collections spaces. In this case the collections are archival – images and documents – which are the basis for the Indiana Experience which John Herbst presented on earlier in the week. After lunch we walked down the canal to the Indiana History Museum, where Rex Garniewicz gave us a tour of the state’s three dimensional collections. We also saw “Odd Indiana”, a great example of an an driven exhibition with great stories built around unrelated but interesting objects.
Yesterday we were out of the classroom again, for a trip first to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and then to Conner Prairie. At ICM we focused on a story driven exhibition, “The Power of Children”, which tells the story of three children from the 1940s, 60s, and 80s respectively, designed to inspire people to create positive change in their own families, schools and communities. The exhibit uses multiple techniques, including objects (both hands-on and displayed in cases), video, audio, interactives, and dramatic performances. After experiencing the exhibit we met with the exhibition development team – Tricia O’Conner (exhibit developer,) Craig Wetli (designer,) Andrea Hughes (curator,) and Eric Olson (interpretation manager), as well as an educator – to discuss the development process and results. At Conner Prairie we took a ride on the balloon (yet another form of history experience) and met with Dave Allison, Dan Freas, and Ken Bubp to discuss the changes they’ve made to interpretation over the past ten years, how those changes have led to institutional change, and their strategies for the future, including big plans for 2011…..stay tuned!