Introducing Team Jersey Shore…A Guest Blog by Team Leader Andrew Scott

There is an old saying regarding sausage making and political elections; you really don’t want to see how either gets done. While I would lump exhibit development in with these, I think the general public has very little idea of how an exhibit comes together. Many assume that it emerges fully fleshed out from the get go.

The Extreme Exhibit Makeover project will most definitely challenge that notion. True to its reality show moniker, the project has assembled a group of strangers with various experiences in museums, most of whom have no knowledge of the Sandy Spring area or its history, and thrown us together in an effort to redesign a section of their exhibit hall. Armed with a small budget, a limited window in which to get creative, and a team that lives nowhere near each other, we aim
to do the impossible (cue dramatic music) or at the very least the improbable: put together a prototype for a section of the larger exhibit.

Not only that, but it’s all going to be televised live. Well, not really, but we are keeping this running blog of the process. I’m not really sure what they expect from us at this point, but that will only serve to make it more interesting, I suppose. Hopefully, it should not only serve as some insight into the creative process, but also highlight some of the issues in museums and historical societies today.

Finally, for some misguided reason, we emerged from Sunday’s kickoff with me as the chosen project leader. With my patented brand of odd humor, obscure references, scathing sarcasm, and diplomacy on the fly, it will be my responsibility to get the ducks in a row and some basic planning documents together.

Spoiler alert: within the first 24 hour period, we’ve already had one casualty, a talented researcher who found themselves over-committed in terms of schedule. So, for those keeping score at home, our team has shrunk by 20% in the first week.

On to some details:
When we arrived at the museum, we were divided into teams, attempting to balance the expertise between groups. From the brief introductions, we seem to have artist, researchers/curators, designers, and other various experts and museum aficionados. Our group’s first task was a scavenger hunt to explore the Sandy Spring Museum and to start to get familiar with Sandy Spring.
After probably fifteen or twenty minutes, we were able to reconvene and have our hunt graded by the staff. The prize (oh, yes, there is always a prize) for the winning team was the chance to select our exhibit space first and immunity from being kicked out of the museum. (Not the second one, but that certainly would have spiced things up!) The sections we had to choose from included the Post Office/General Store, the Hospital/Domestic Life, the Kitchen, and Education/

So our group, dubbed Team Jersey Shore (a clear reference to the miniscule Channel island off the coast of France and not MTV’s most recent attempt at social commentary), elected after a rigorous 5 minute debate, the Post Office/general store. Latching on to the question, “Who is a Sandy Springer”, our group see the post office as entry point into a discussion about community gathering places.

Editor’s Note: 

Below see some details of what Team Jersey Shore is up against with the “before” pictures of the Post Office area. Have any thoughts about Team Jersey Shore’s main question- “Who is a Sandy Springer?”- leave them in the comment area, we’d love to hear your feedback!

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The Kick Off…Let the Fun Begin

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At the Kick Off Event on Sunday, October 20, the teams were revealed.

Team members began with a scavenger hunt and ended some team work.

In between was a lot of fun!

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Batting for Team Jersey Shore:

Andrew Scott

Sarah Gingold

Avi Decter

Elissa Blattman



Batting for Team Kardashian:

James Hicks

Lynda Andrews-Barry

Michael Simons

Andrea Jones

Lindsay Brennan



Playing for Both Teams: Susan Baker

Life Line for Both Teams: Larry O’Reilly




Introducing the Competitors!!!

The Extreme Exhibit Makeover is proud to have a list of competitors with various skills, interests, and backgrounds. We can’t yet reveal how the teams are split up, but we can introduce our competitors!

First off, serving as a lifeline for all competitors, not on any particular team is Larry O’Reilly.

THE LIFELINE: Larry O’Reilly:


Laurence P. O’Reilly served for 23 years at the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. He began in 1984 as the Assistant Director of the museum in charge of Exhibits, overseeing all permanent, temporary and Special Exhibitions for the most visited natural history museum in the world. He also initiated a $45-million architectural expansion project to add new shops, restaurant and IMAX theater to the museum. He then served as Executive Producer for the Museum’s Signature IMAX film, “Galapagos”. He then became the Lead Advisor from the Smithsonian to the Presidio Trust of San Francisco. Since his retirement from the Smithsonian in 2007, Mr. O’Reilly has established his own Museum Planning and Design firm, O’Reilly and Associates, LLP. He was elected in 2006 as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the oldest biological association in the world, for his contributions to public understanding of science.

And the competitors, in no particular order…

Sarah Gingold:


Photo by: Elissar Khalek

Sarah Gingold wants to make the world look like a more interesting place. A self-taught clothing artist, she encourages others to explore clothing as a form of self-expression at Think Outside the Store, where she offers sewing classes and wearable art workshops, as well as creative sewing/design services. If you can’t buy it—she can help you make it, or make it for you! In 2013, she received the People’s Choice Award at the Pyramid Atlantic Kiki DC Wearable Art Competition, won first place in the Montgomery County Fair Project G Street Sewing Competition, and had a design featured in DC Fashion Week’s Project Blue Wrap Ecofashion show–although she was most proud that one of her high school students came to the studio and worked on a blue wrap design that also walked down the runway!

Check Her Out Online:

Avi Decter:

AVI DECTER has been a fan of museums for 65 years, first as a visitor and over the past 40 years as a museum researcher, educator, program and exhibition developer, and administrator. His projects range from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Visitor Center. He is particularly proud of having conceived and co-curated the first-ever show on TCHOTCHKES (Treasures of the Family Museum) at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and of having championed THE NATION’S ATTIC exhibition at NMAH (Smithsonian). He still thinks of museums as compelling storytellers and he is delighted that his grandsons are devotees of the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Morris Arboretum.

Andrea Jones:

Andrea Jones

ANDREA JONES is an award-winning museum educator who specializes in designing simulations, immersive experiences, and participatory learning programs. Starting out as a high school history teacher 13 years ago, she became increasingly intrigued by the flexibility and creative possibilities that museum education offers. Most recently she served as Education Specialist at the Atlanta History Center. There, she spent three years redesigning school field trips to incorporate experiential learning. This included extensive research, writing, constructing and altering new spaces, and training interpretive staff. She believes that museum exhibits should be more than a themed collection of objects with labels; they should strive to challenge a visitor’s perspective, trigger emotional responses, encourage participation, and connect to the human experience.

Check Her Out Online:

Susan Baker:


SUSAN BAKER is a graphic designer and illustrator, working primarily in print for publications, advertising, display, and federal proposals. She says with a smile, “Yes, my BFA in Theatre Performance has been a great help in my chosen field of illustration and publishing design; I can really get into the character of a wing-tip shoe or radar array.” Seriously, being able to conceptualize the customer’s point of view has been of great help in designing ads and illustrations that speak to intended audiences. Print layout and set design are truly related, as are set design and exhibit displays. Born in Chicago and a Montgomery County resident since age one-and-a-half, she caught the American history bug from her parents and grandparents.

Michael Simons:

I am currently the Director the National Electronics Museum.  I trained as an archaeologist, studying prehistoric ceramic manufacturing techniques in Micronesia.  I’ve done fieldwork in India, Micronesia, the Greater Antilles, and the Southeastern U.S. I have a BA from Kent State University and a MA from Southern Illinois University.  I started my museum career when I became the Registrar at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.  Although I shared an office with over 5,000 people, all but one dead, and I got to see and do a lot of cool things – like going to a guy’s house to pick up his collection of shrunken heads – I found the job of Registrar tedious and boring.  Being the director of a big museum with and a tiny staff has been anything but boring.  On any given day I might be do fundraising, dealing with HR issues, giving tours, shooting a laser, hanging out behind the scenes at Air and Space, building exhibits, working with seniors or visiting a secret Navy installation.  The best part by far is getting kids and adults fired up about science.

Meghan Kaylor:

My name is Meghan Kaylor and have grown up locally in Carroll County Maryland, I have always been surrounded with history.  This grateful upbringing has given me a knack, per say, to learn more about my home state and to be apart in depicting it’s history to a greater audience.  Two years ago I received my Master’s in Public History from UNCC and a BA in History from St. Mary’s College of Maryland a few years prior.  Ironically enough my concentration in topics at both institutions were at opposite ends of the ‘historical spectrum,’ Civil War and American Memory- UNCC, and the American Contact Period- St. Mary’s.  Most of my professional/post graduate experience is in education at various local and national historic sites, including Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and currently visitor services with the Foundation and Visitor’s Bureau in Gettysburg.

Lindsay Brennan:


Lindsay Brennan is a recent graduate of Morgan State University’s Museum Studies: Historical Preservation graduate program. During this time, she had the opportunity to intern for the Library of Congress, National Cathedral, James E. Lewis Museum of Art, and the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. During her internships, she had the fortunate opportunity to work on Presidential photographs, Cathedral research projects, and J. Edgar Hoover’s archives. This experience has prepared her for her work as a Family Programming Interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg and her current work as a museum educator with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Andrew Scott:

Andrew Scott has long held a passion for museums and reaching the public through innovative exhibits. Although initially trained in Near Eastern archaeology and history at Cornell University, when the allure of the Indiana Jones lifestyle wore off, he found himself drawn to the more educational aspects of museums and exhibit design. After completing his M.A. at the George Washington University, he spent seven years designing and producing exhibitions for the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. His past exhibits have included Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First EmperorTitanic: 100 Year Obsession, and Crittercam: The World through Animal Eyes, to name a few.  He is currently a freelance designer living in Alexandria with his wife, Maeve and their Scottish Terrier, Nessie.

Elissa Blattman:

Elissa Picture

Elissa Blattman loves social, cultural, local, and popular culture history.  She received a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, where she studied English Literature, Popular Culture Studies, and Film Studies, and she has a Master’s degree in Cultural and Creative Industries from King’s College London.  During her time in London she interned at Islington Museum, where she worked on social media, marketing, and museum exhibitions and events.  After graduation, she began working for the National Women’s History Museum – first as an intern and currently as Project Assistant.  Much of her time there is devoted to writing exhibits, educational blog posts, and producing social media content.

James Hicks:


Trained as an architect, James has been involved in the design of cultural spaces and exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad for nearly two decades.  As an Independent Design Consultant James has provided exhibition design consultation in all phases for a variety of clients. Prior to joining Studio Kudos, James has worked as an exhibition designer for the American Museum of Natural History, Pentagram, Design/Writing/Research and Doyle Partners.

He is a graduate of The Cooper Union, is currently a professor at Columbia University and his recent clients includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US Department of State and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.


Lynda Andrews Barry:


i am an artist, designer, metalsmith and jeweler. i am currently a candidate for the master of arts program in exhibition design at the Corcoran College Art + Design

Check Her Out Online:

Kick-Off Agenda Set for Sunday, October 20!

Extreme Exhibit Makeover

Kick-off Agenda

Sunday, October 20, noon – 2 pm

Sandy Spring Museum, Sandy Spring, MD


 12 – 12:10 pm

Arrive, find out what team you are on, and make quick introductions!

12:10 – 12:30pm

Scavenger Hunt of museum (Extremely Valuable Prize to the winning team)

12:30 – 12:45pm

Overview of:

Extreme Exhibit Makeover Project Goals

Sandy Spring Museum’s mission and how this project relates

Broad theme of exhibits

Collection & staff resources

Important dates/deadlines

Project Documentation

Introduction of your “Lifeline”

12:45 – 1:30pm

Exhibit Blueprint

1:30 – 2pm

Teams work on:

Selecting a team leader

Roles & responsibilities

Timeline for completing their assignment

Extra Credit:

2 pm – 3 pm

Teams can start learning more about resources in archives and collections with help from Susan Fifer Canby, Volunteer Extraordinaire (VP Emeritus at National Geographic!)

AND DON’T FORGET the Sandy Spring Museum’s  Vision Statement:

The Sandy Spring Museum provides a place where people can develop meaningful connections by exploring community history through the visual, literary and performing arts.


The Sandy Spring Museum is excited to be launching an innovative take on exhibit development!

Launching on October 20, the Extreme Exhibit Makeover is a process of creating new exhibits through the collaboration of professionals from different fields–history, art, exhibit design, and a member of the community.

Two teams of professionals will compete for the best exhibit design, while the public watches the behind the scenes action on video.

Project participants include Andrew Scott, Susan Baker, Lynda Andrews Barry, Lindsay Brennan, Meghan Kaylor, Sarah Gingold, Andrea Jones Childress, and Elissa Blattman.  Larry O’Reilly will be serving as the project “Lifeline” for participants to call on when they are in need of help!

The public will be invited to attend a two-day installation at the museum On February 1 and 2 and vote for a “people’s choice” winner.

Sounds like an amazing project, right?

If you’re interested in joining, as of this writing (Oct 14), there is still space for one more participant. If you’d like to be considered for that sport, send your resume and cover letter explaining your interest to Sandy Spring Executive Director, Allison Weiss at