Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jessica's Summer 2015 Exhibit Development Project

After spending several wonderful years of my life working and volunteering in museums while getting a formal education in museum work I have come to the conclusion that “museuming,” a term I have affectionately created for the work that I do (and should not be taken too seriously) consists of two priorities. The first priority is to preserve and protect the artifacts the museum houses and the second is to interpret and present the artifacts to the public through exhibits, therefore museums should constantly strive as much as is practical to develop exhibits. Continuous exhibit development is a fundamental part of museum work.

This summer I did extensive volunteer work at Delta Gateway Museum in Blytheville, AR. The mission of this particular museum is “To tell the story of Blytheville and the surrounding area by interpreting the land and its impact on the people.” This mission encompasses a long timeline beginning from the Native American cultures that were the first inhabitants of the area to modern times. The Farming and Rural Life and the Native American Archaeology exhibits are two exhibits that I did extensive work on this past summer. Volunteering for a local institution is a great way to develop your skills and contribute to your professional experiences.

With the Native American Archaeology exhibit I cataloged, put on display, and helped create labels for a new case that has been filled with the loaned collection of a private local collector who lives in the area. His collection represents hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of Native American artifacts from Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. The most crucial and tedious task was the initial cataloging. I documented, photographed, and cataloged over sixty artifacts. After they were cataloged I did a rough sketch of how they should be placed in the case and then put them in a display case.

The Farming and Rural Life exhibit presented fascinating research and discussion on how to display the artifacts in the exhibit. I helped move the artifacts into place, researched them, and created labels for them.

This is a unique specimen. It is a nutting stone. Usually nutting stones will be much smaller and have one indention. This stone is fairly large and has several indentions.

Notice the two smaller, more typical nutting stones in front of the larger one.

These two photos of pottery are close ups of objects in the case.

I thought these pieces should be grouped together because of their uniqueness.

This is the case after the development was completed. Notice there is a mirror in the back of the case. Mirrors can be helpful to the display because patrons can see the backs of the artifacts. This is very interesting with pottery.

Upon researching this hat I found out it was a men’s boater hat from the 1920s. On the inside of the hat there was the insignia of a haberdasher, Mead’s Men Store. Researching in the museum’s library and archive showed that Mead’s was the predecessor to what is now Day’s Men’s Store. Mead’s was in business on Blytheville’s Main Street from 1912-1971.

Ms. Leslie Hester, the museum’s director and I discussed how to organize the Farming and Rural Life exhibit. We came to the conclusion that when patrons arrive at the beginning of the exhibit it should feel like they are walking into a farm house. When they go further into the exhibit area they should feel like they are walking outside and at the end of the exhibit they are walking into the Main Street area.

Some artifacts present questions. This rocking chair is very interesting. I analyzed it thoroughly and could find no identifying markings. It looks like it could be homemade.

One of the most rewarding things about working in museums is that you learn something new every day. There was one artifact that I came across that I found very interesting. It was a photograph of cotton chopping geese. I have heard stories about cotton chopping all of my life, but I had never heard of cotton chopping geese. This photograph was taken around 1930 and shows geese that were used for chopping cotton. The geese would eat the weeds, etc. that would normally be chopped with a hoe by people.

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