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MUSEUM MONDAYS: A case study of 'interesting things'

December 5, 2010

 Museum Monday 1206Red things, things made from porcupine parts, gold things, things made of stone, things with feathers and dog teeth. We curate some pretty interesting and unusual things at the Logan Museum of Anthropology. Nine cases of these interesting things will go on exhibit Thursday at 4 p.m. when the museum studies program opens Case Studies: Exploring Art and Objects with a special opening reception in Godfrey Hall.

Students in Museum Studies 370, Exhibit Design and Development, spent a busy semester exploring many facets of museum exhibits – from advanced planning for exhibits, to how visitors interact with exhibits, to how graphics and object mounts are created. As a culminating project, each student is installing a small exhibit based on a collection of objects assigned at the beginning of classes. They developed themes and objectives for their exhibits then wrote label text and chose appropriate graphics. How well these components – objects, text and graphics – work together to support the theme makes the difference between an engaging interpretive exhibit and a bunch of things in a case.

One challenge is learning the technique of interpretive writing. Students completed weekly, 50-75 word writing assignments designed to strengthen their interpretive writing skills. Writing for exhibits requires the ability to distill information down into small bites of 50-75 words written at about a ninth grade reading level. At the same time, the text must be lively enough to make readers want to keep reading. These requirements make interpretive writing different from our typical academic expository style. Interpretive writing uses elements of creative writing (analogy, personification, alliteration and rhythm, active voice, etc) to foster an emotional as well as an intellectual connection with the material. Every sentence has a very specific purpose – to capture attention, convey information or provoke a response. No words are wasted.

Next Thursday is study day. Why not take a break? The museum will have some things for you to eat and you can see what the museum studies students have been up to this semester. They'll be there from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. that afternoon. Hope you can make it.