Extreme Exhibit Make Over: Public Installation Schedule

See what happens when you bring together 7 strangers and give them:

a small budget, a tight deadline, and a big job to do.

Some said it couldn’t be done!

Come see for yourself. Public Installation March 15 and 16.


March 15

9:00 am Recitation of the Rules and Regulations


1:30 pm Extreme Exhibit Makeover Mini Challenge

6:00-8:00 pm Reception and Talk Show


March 16


2:00 Finale with Celebrity Guest Judges


Please RSVP for Saturday evening’s reception at exhibits@sandyspringmuseum.org or call (301)774.0022


Featuring: Special Guest MC: Tania Katan

Ms. Katan, humorist, performer, and producer of Shenanigans at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, will be the MC all weekend, and will host her own talk show Saturday evening: What really happened behind the scenes during the Extreme Exhibit Makeover?

We are in the final throes of print graphic production!

Designing the signage and images that represent the visions Teams Jersey Shore and Kardashian have for their exhibits is a process of rough sketches to final approved designs. This meant going through the steps of rough drafts for over 50 individual items and bringing them to final approved files for the printer (often with up to or more than three iterations as we polish each item through the process of proofing, editing, and redesigns).   


Once a design is approved, a final PDF print file is made and given to the printer, who then either prints the items on display board and trims them out, or on heavy paper/canvas stock to be mounted and trimmed by the team. Once the items are delivered to the Museum, the teams go to work assembling and installing their exhibits.


Team Jersey Shore’s signage and images are being printed now, and Team Kardashian’s graphics are coming in to the home stretch. It has been great working with both teams, to watch the concepts develop and solidify, and to be a small part of that. To be able to take their ideas and portray them graphically for their signage and imagery is very satisfying.


Teams Jersey Shore and Kardashian have crafted exhibits that tell stories about their subjects in a way that will speak to the contemporary viewer. They approached their presentations differently in telling the story of the Sandy Spring community specifically, and the American experience as a whole, and they have brought their subject matter alive. Neither display is a static presentation of collected items. Both teams have successfully personalized the experience, so that Our Story — past, present, and future — is going to surprise and inform the visitor.


I hope that my graphic design successfully helps with that experience. The proof is in the pudding: the final assembly of the exhibits by the teams, and the communication with the public.


What a great experience.


— Susan Baker, Graphic Designer

Team Kardashian…Towards the Home Stretch!

As Team Kardashian looked towards the homestretch, we asked them to reflect on the process a little bit. Enjoy!

Andrea reflected on being able to spend an extended amount of time speaking with Specialist Michelle Bloomberg. She says, “getting a chance to talk in-depth with someone who has lived in a combat zone in Afghanistan was a perspective altering experience.”

Lynda worked on the design and hoped that a sneak preview of what to expect for the opening would tell it’s own story.

From Soldier to Civilian

A Quick Update!

Susan Baker, Exhibit Designer for both teams has asked that I share a quick update. I think it conveys just how busy things are for her!


I am now in graphic production mode for the Extreme Exhibit Makeover signage!

Installation is March 14!

Graphic files due to printer February 21!

Herding fire ants!”

Team Jersey Shore- An Update!

In the last blog post we gave a preview on the part of the exhibit that Team Kardashian is working on. Their project on veterans from Sandy Spring looks VERY interesting!

But in true reality competition form, Team Jersey Shore is not to be outdone.

They have been working hard on a project related to gathering and community  in Sandy Spring.

Gatherings they focus on range from locations, like religious institutions to the Post Office. Others are clubs you may not have been aware of. For example, have you ever heard of the Patuxent Rod and Gun Club?

Some you are probably quite familiar with–such as the Friends Meeting House. But Team Jersey Shore has incorporated some  contemporary information. Can you locate where the “Highway to Heaven” is in Sandy Spring? I bet you can.

Team Jersey Shore’s exhibit will be quite different from Team Kardashian’s. And it will be very interesting to see how audiences react to the juxtaposition. Here’s to a great final stretch of the project!




The Makeover Continues…

As the Extreme Exhibit Makeover Participants continue their work, there are some tidbits that are coming out. A piece of the exhibit will focus on Veterans from the area and a video will be a part of the exhibit.

Some snippets the interview that is being edited for the exhibit are below. This is really powerful stuff…

“It was 6 months before I realized I hadn’t seen a tree. Everything is the same color. And you can never get away from the dust. There’s dust and gravel everywhere. We had to work at it to keep the Aid Station clean enough to practice medicine. ”

“On the news people see battles and explosions, but they don’t realize, sometimes it’s the little things that get to you out there.”

“It’s the repetition. You do the same thing everyday and there’s only so many movies you can watch or games you can play. . . . . . Even the incoming fire get boring. I got to the point where sirens would go off and I didn’t even care. I figure if it’s gonna hit me, it’s gonna hit me.  I have no control over that.”

Stay tuned for more information on how the exhibit is coming along. We expect to be open to the public on Wednesday, March 19. Mark your calendars now for a powerful experience.




An Exhibit Wish List!

We know the holiday season is over, but we have a wish list for the upcoming exhibit.

If you have any of the following items and would like to share them with us, please email Andrea from Team Kardashian at andrea.childress@gmail.com.

– twin size bedding (sheets, pillow, comforter)
– small living room chair
– small lamp with shade
– 1-2 stuffed animals (about 12″ high)
– 6-12 bottled waters
– female hygeine items (toothbrush, deodorant, hair brush, etc)
– 2 rugs (4′ X 6′ approx or smaller)
– DVDs circa 2011 or before (bootleg DVDs are better!)
– Care package items: ground coffee, pack of Twizzlers, hand sanitizer, bug spray, power bars, chap stick, batteries, crossword puzzle book, sunflower seeds snack.

Guest Post from Sandy Spring Museum Executive Director Allison Weiss

History Museum meets Reality TV

So we are now officially two months into the three and a half month process of conducting the extreme makeover and we have learned many lessons.

1.       History Museums function much like reality TV.

Apparently both teams have experienced a lot of drama.  This has included a certain amount of fighting, “my way or the highway” impasses, personal life challenges which resulted in some drop-outs, and general parting of the ways for team members who were politely asked to “leave the island.”

2.      Creating museum exhibits is not for the faint of heart.

Many people ask me why the exhibits are not changed on a regular basis.  The answer is simple: it takes a lot of time to do it right.  You need to do research, write text, find artifacts…but first you need to decide what story to tell and how that story can best be conveyed to a museum audience of varying ages, experience, education, interests, and so on.  It’s also very expensive.  Estimates to hire a professional exhibit designer and have the exhibit built are about $300 a square foot!

3.      You can do serious history and still have fun.

Performer Tania Katan, the curator of shenanigans at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, takes the serious subject of high art and turns it on its head (Arm Wrestling for Art, anyone?).  Tania will be the MC when the teams install their Extreme Exhibit Makeovers on March 15 and 16.  The Sandy Spring Museum is committed to doing serious history but, on this occasion, we will do it in a very non-serious way.

I’m on pins and needles waiting for updates from the two teams.  I’m so impressed with how much time they have devoted to the project and how resourceful they have been, cajoling colleagues for donations of supplies and expertise.

Submitted by Allison Weiss, Executive Director, Sandy Spring Museum

Guest Post from Andrea Jones: Between Worlds: The Vets of the Maryland 224th

bunk afghanSoldiers’ living quarters in Afghanistan.  Photo Credit: Guy Calaf

Imagine living thousands of miles from home with no cell phone coverage. You spend your days tending to battle wounds, dehydration, and injuries caused by heavy equipment accidents. Days are long. There are no days off.  And sometimes you are put in the position of healing the enemy – the same men who have put your friends in an early grave. As you walk the mile home in the 117-degree heat, you sometimes begin to dread what waits for you back at your CHU (Containerized Housing Unit). The boredom during the evening is mind numbing sometimes, so you occupy yourself, watching dozens of bootleg DVDs, or working out in the base gym after the sun goes down. But within the boredom is a restlessness . . . an underlying awareness that something could happen at any moment. Truly relaxing means that you may not be ready when an attack comes.

[The above description was gathered from Oral interviews with the Maryland 224th]

2010 ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility on Riggs Road. Photo Credit: Maryland National Guard 2010 ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility on Riggs Road. Photo Credit: Maryland National Guard

A portion of Team K’s upcoming exhibit will aim to put the visitor in the shoes of a soldier from the 224th ASMC (Area Support Medical Company) of the Maryland National Guard. These men and women train and are deployed from a readiness center only 8 miles from Sandy Spring Museum.

Five of these service members agreed to sit down with me last weekend to answer questions about, not only their experience at war, but about their experience coming back home to Maryland after living in a war zone. Research tells us the transition can be tough. Some experts call it the “war after the war” because soldiers develop a “battle” mindset that is hard to let go of. They have a tough time adjusting to life at home with their families. Some have PTSD and can’t function in their jobs. They’re angry and react violently to minor problems with their children and spouses. Others lose direction because they are used to the rigid lifestyle in the military. Sadly, the suicide rate for veterans is twice as high as it is for civilians.

Source: After the War Zone: A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and Their Families by Dr. Laurie Stone, and Dr. Matthew Friedman Source: After the War Zone: A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and Their Families by Dr. Laurie Stone, and Dr. Matthew Friedman

But not all soldiers have lasting struggles. Some that I talked to say their experience “down range” has made them a better person. They are proud of their service and would eagerly go back for another tour of duty. They believed that their missions were purposeful and they felt genuine satisfaction about helping Iraqis and Afghans. They wanted me to make sure that our exhibit shows their pride and strength.

In my life, I’ve had little contact with those in the military. And I’ve definitely never had honest, thoughtful dialogue with anyone who has served in battle. This experience was eye opening for me. For the first time, I began to truly separate the wars and my political views of them, from the men and women who serve. With their oral histories alone, they’ve definitely earned my respect and my empathy (not sympathy). The challenge will be to communicate, with due complexity, what I’ve learned as we represent these stories in the museum. Come see for yourself when we open in mid-March, and ask yourself, “How would I react to working in a battle zone? Do our life experiences fundamentally change who we are?”

A Guest Blog from Project Graphic Designer Susan Baker: Telling a Story and Engendering Curiosity

Telling a story and engendering curiosity

Hi there, Susan Baker here, graphic artist for both team Kardashian and Jersey Shore as they re-imagine the exhibits at the Sandy Spring Museum. I am the one who will produce the files of text and photos that will go to printers to be made into the descriptive text and photo panels. Allison Weiss of the Sandy Spring Museum and I are designing a template for the Museum signage, and our Extreme Exhibit makeovers are our jumping off point. I am following the development of both teams’ exhibits, and being a “keep it succinct” nag, suggesting that stories be kept brief and clear.

A big question an exhibit viewer has is, “what here do I care about?” How many seconds does an exhibit have to say to the viewer “this is an important story”, and then how does the exhibit hold the viewer’s interest through out its story? What images, colors, or information will pique the viewer’s desire to learn, and encourage them to research to learn more? What makes the viewer want to care about the exhibit’s story and to recognize how it pertains to them? How do we, as designers, present the story in a way that attracts and holds the attention of the viewer? What type style, words, images, or items will attract them and encourage them to care enough to explore the story? How do we “set the stage” of the exhibit to draw a broad range of viewers to the story? How much of the story do we tell at first glance, and how do we draw viewers into the deeper aspects of the story? How do we give the right amount of information about the heart of the story? Will the viewer want to come back again to look deeper at the story, and will they walk away with a broader understanding and a desire to learn more?

Because the teams are working on display ideas that are very unique in nature, I am presented with a puzzle of unifying the type and graphic presentations in some way. Every display will get a banner, along with necessary descriptive panels may be unique in format, color, and type style for each exhibit. The individual item identifier tags will be the same format through out, and they can use as many of those as needed. With the interactive concepts being discussed, signs indicating “Please Touch” and “Please Do Not Touch” indicators should be considered.

General rules of thumb for display type ease of reading is:

  • Banners — 3” capital letter height, try and go no longer than two lines on a maximum 6’ long banner … unless you absolutely have to. If using all capital letters, the shorter your sentence the better. Upper and lower case is much more friendly.
  • Descriptive panels — should have their titles in 24 point type, sub-titles in 20 point type, and text no smaller than 18 point type, with at least 2 points leading (line spacing) each, in upper and lower case letters which is easier to read.
  • Identifier tags — 18 point type is a good place to start. Since folks will be walking through the exhibits we can possibly go smaller. Again, upper and lower case text is friendly and easy to read.

Thank you! Susan