How do museums approach exhibits: create a story with at least one thing to learn. Use all pieces of the exhibit to tell the story, but also each piece can stand alone. I hope to give you some good insight today about this category. I’ve seen a lot of History Day exhibits and I can’t honestly say it takes XYZ to win National History Day, but I do have a degree in Museum Studies and understand what it takes to make a good exhibit and a compelling argument. Please stop me at any time and ask me questions.
Well right off the bat we usually know who are audience is for History Day, who is it?Exhibit designers always want to reach a general audience. I am sure you have all heard that newspapers are written at a 4th grade reading level and the NY Times is at a 7th grade reading level.Next you have to determine, what are you going to say and how to say it. With History Day student have topics, the what to say is getting at- What is your main message.Finally, what pictures, images, text, graphics, colors, materials, etc is the student going to use to convey that message to the intended audienc.
Every exhibit should have a main message, the one big idea that every visitor should come away with. Every History Day project needs to have a thesis statement. So for our purposes today, the main message is the thesis statement. It should be an umbrella for all other content. That means that all of the information on the board is geared toward supporting that thesis statement. Some of that information provides historical context and background on the topic, but it is all putting together a story that supports that thesis.The main message should be a single sentence that is simple and clear. It does not use jargon or too complex language. Anyone should be able to read it and understand what the exhibit is about.It also needs to be on a History Day exhibit. The main message on museum exhibits may never be as explicitly written out as it should be for a History Day exhibit.
So the content is what the students have selected from their research to use to create the exhibit.The storyline is the order or how to tell the story.The exhibit plan is the physical layout.
I’m going to go over three ways for students to approach their History Day projects. History Day asks students to move beyond reporting and actually interpret and come to a conclusion about their project.
Taking two viewpoints on one subject, be it people, places, ideas or events to talk about a larger topic. Ralph Wallenburg helped thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust. Adolf Eichman was a Nazi who was responsible for planning the shipment of people into the ghettos and eventually to concentration camps. Looking at these two individuals can tell you about the good and evil involved in this horrific event.
A case study takes one aspect of the topic to examine the larger event. This can really help students focus and narrow their topics. For example, a student is interested in the Great Depression. The CCC had a separate diviion for Native Americans that helped young men get work with public works projects. Native Americans can be used as the entry point to look at the effects of the Great Depression.
In a multiple case study, students can take several components of a topic to reflect on the larger issue. In this case, looking at the different work relief programs during the great depression. It can show some of the attempts to heal the country’s economic problems.
DO Timber Exhibit activity.Outlining an exhibit can be difficult, but is necessary. You have to decide how to effectively use space. Here are some things that exhibit designers think about: Image composition, flow of information. People usually go the the left and read like normal. They also only read up to 50 words for a label.In History day projects, they need to include Historical Context. One way to do this is create a timeline. The bad part of timelines- they count against the 500 word limit, but can be effective depending on the complexity of the topic. Timelines should be readable and relevant to the topic and should be easy to understand at a glance.Students often focus on what they put on the exhibit, but I urge you to also think about the negative space. Is it even? Is it the same between different images? Is there enough negative space so that it doesn’t give you a headache.Exhibit designers are often trying to think of ways to draw an audience into an exhibit and help them remember the exhibit. Interactive elements are a fun way to do this. This can be done very easily by opening doors or panels to reveal more information or photos. It can also be done with pieces that can be removed from the exhibit.In museums we often focus on the objects that will tell a story. With a History Day exhibit it is general images, be they pictures or images of primary sources. There is limited time and space to tell their story, so students need to select images that have the greatest impact. Some topics are going to be full of pictures, and need to judicially select the best images. It is really tempting to fill an exhibit up with too much, but think of it this way. Does this image convey a new idea that hasn’t been covered already in the exhibit, does it support the thesis, does it make a lasting impact? If you answer no to two of those questions, its probably not the best image to use.Go out into the exhibit and find examples of timelines, use of positive and negative space and interactive elements and image selection.
Go over the different types of boards:Simple boards, cut and put together for full sizePre-made from National History DayMade out of foam coreMade from other materials (show chicken wire exhibit)Adhesives:Bad: Elmers glue (lumpy), tape (doesn’t look good), Good: Rubber cementSpray Adhesives (warning!!)VelcroMagnetsDouble-sided foam tapePaper: Discuss using regular paper- re-print for each level of competitonCardstockFoamcoreFoam boardMatt board(how to attach to foam core or matt board) Expensive- printing directly onCutting with clean lines:T-squareExacto knife (dangerous)Drafting tableOther creative ideas: Leaves, colors, objects, dioramas, flags, Electronics NOT necessary
EasyShort labels (not overwhelming, all germane)One idea (clear, easy to grasp, stay focused)Cut to the chase (in headline, if possible)Short, simple sentencesAvoid jargon, fancy words, long words (reading level)Organized (flows logically, builds to finish)GrammaticalFunActive verbs – lively imagesActive voice – lively structureAvoid state-of-being (dull)Use contractions, personal wordsWrite to be read aloud (conversational, social)Vivid (visual, concrete, specific)Show, don’t tellStyle, humor, sound, variety
Creating Exhibits for NHD-OH
National History Day in Ohio:
Hands On With Exhibits!
Megan Wood, State Coordinator, National History Day in Ohio
History Day Educator’s Conference: October 15, 2008
•Who is the audience?
•What does the exhibit say? (thesis)
•How do you say it?
The Main Message
• Thesis Statement
• An umbrella for all content
• A single sentence or statement
• Simple, clear language
• Present on the exhibit!
• Content- Information to support thesis
• Storyline- The order to tell the story
• Exhibit Plan- How the exhibit is laid out
Main MessageStoryline Exhibit Plan
•Compare and Contrast
•Multiple Case Study
Effective Exhibit Text
- Short and Sweet
- Most important information first
- Clearly tie quotes and visuals to the story
- 50 word or less rule
Guns, tanks, and bombs were the principal
weapons of World War II, but there were other,
more subtle, forms of warfare as well. Words,
posters, and films waged a constant battle for the
hearts and minds of the American citizenry just
as surely as military weapons engaged the
enemy. Persuading the American public became
a wartime industry, almost as important as the
manufacturing of bullets and planes. The
Government launched an aggressive propaganda
campaign to galvanize public support, and some
of the nation's foremost intellectuals, artists, and
film makers became warriors on that front.