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.
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!