Guest Blog from Sarah Gingold of Team Jersey Shore!

Last Friday I had the privilege of meeting with several long-time members of the Sandy Spring community to interview them to find stories for the remake of our exhibit. Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to meet with me! I am looking forward to processing all of the incredible stories with my teammates and thinking about how to incorporate them into an exhibit. I conducted the interviews in the Sandy Spring museum library, while my teammates were doing additional research. A few highlights:

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Since the exhibit that we are re-making features the post office and general store, I set up an interview with the retired postmaster. I learned that postmaster is a political appointee, as well as a lot of other information about post offices. He helped us go back into the museum’s collection and find the original post office boxes from the Sandy Spring post office. Apparently some artifacts from the Sandy Spring post office are actually now housed at the Smithsonian—which means we’re unlikely to get them back! Post office parts can apparently be very valuable.

 

Since we are focusing on the theme of gathering places (such as the post office) and being part of a community, I asked several long time community members, “What does it mean to be from Sandy Spring?” It turns out that to many, Sandy Spring is not a place, but rather a “state of mind” which is rooted in Quaker values. Many older residents feel a strong sense of connection to the community, from growing up when you could go to the grocery store and know everyone you saw. They noted that in the 1970s or so, with a huge growth in suburban development, that changed. Many older residents still organize educational clubs at private homes and are active with organizations that meet publicly that were formed many years ago.

 

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When I surveyed the long time residents for input on what they would like to see in a museum exhibit about Sandy Spring, I got some interesting answers. One suggested exhibit would revolve around the different eras of Sandy Spring history, from 1728-1800 when there was a plantation economy, from 1801-1945 when villages sprang up, and post 1945 when the farms broke up and the neighborhoods transitioned to suburbia. Another exhibit could focus on notable stress points, like the 1835 “silk craze” when residents thought they would try to start a local silk production industry by importing silk worms, then the Civil War, and the introduction of the automobile. Another suggested looking at people who were ordinary residents but made a difference. Or, some of the notable “firsts” of Sandy Spring, many of which were started by the Quakers.

 

Personally, I thought one of the most interesting Sandy Spring stories I learned about were the Annals of Sandy Spring—a series of books started by the Quakers that documented the births, deaths, marriages and other events in the Quaker community, even the weather. The Annals served as an ongoing history of the community for many years.

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Guest Post by Elissa Blattman from Team Jersey Shore on a Great Find!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRY5wYAzJb8

 

In researching the history of Sandy Spring, I came across a very interesting and relevant documentary on YouTube called “Sandy Spring: Unity in the Time of Segregation.”  The video was produced by Montgomery College’s television station and, in it, a Montgomery College student discusses the research he did on the town’s racial history.  He also conducted interviews with town locals who recount what it was like to grow up in Sandy Spring.

 

For the Extreme Exhibit Makeover project, Team Jersey Shore is focusing on the general store and post office section of the Museum.  I found the portions of the video where the locals remember shopping at the general store and where they recall homes not having addresses to be of particular interest to our focus as a group.  It never occurred to me that homes did not have mailboxes or even addresses in the early 20th Century.  In learning such a fact, I realized the post office had a much more prominent role in town than I originally imagined.  I also found it interesting that everyone, regardless of race or creed, shopped at the general store in the time of segregation.

 

Though the general store was not segregated, the interviewees describe the impact of segregation they felt in other aspects of life, such as education.  They also explain what life was like in Sandy Spring after Montgomery County outlawed segregation in the early 1960s.  I suggest anyone interested in the history of Sandy Spring take time to watch this video.

Calling all Sandy Spring Veterans!

Team Kardashian for the Extreme Exhibit Makeover is looking into a very serious topic for their exhibit.  For those of you who are vets, they want your story!
From Team Leader Andrea Jones…
Are you a veteran of recent wars living in the Sandy Spring, MD area? The Sandy Spring Museum is collecting oral histories from local veterans for a thought-provoking new exhibit whose aim is to improve understanding of the current-day soldier’s experience. We are particularly interested in your thoughts about the transition from being deployed “down range” to coming home and readjusting to civilian life.

If you are willing to share your story, and are available on December 7th, please contact: Andrea Jones at andreajonesmail@gmail.com

Exhibit Development: 1 Central Question…Another Guest Blog by Andrew Scott from Team Jersey Shore

One of our members forwarded around this TedTalk last week as a model to follow in our proceeding, before leaving the group (that’s right we’re down to three members now.) I’m not going to get into it too much (hint: there’s a lot in it I disagree with), but I think it gives rise to a number of discussions about the field.

So if you’ll indulge me my soap box…

Whenever I begin a new project, there is a single question I seek to answer in the development process: what can you gain from the museum exhibit that you get nowhere else? Why is the audience not better served with a book, website, video game, app, simulator, message board, historical reenactor, TV show, movie, performance piece, class or workshop? That’s not even an exhaustive list. Actually, a lot of exhibits incorporate some if not all of these in some degree. But great exhibits harness something unique.

There are two components of museums that cannot be replicated in other media. Objects are the first component, and authentic objects at that. You can see a picture of Lincoln’s stove top hat, or the Code of Hammurabi, but there is something in the ether when you stand in front of the real thing that connects you to its creator or owner. It is almost as if its history is channeled through you. The difference is the equivalent of watching a celebrity on TV and standing next to them at a party. Objects have a certain energy to them, even more so when placed in a context. This is the deeply contemplative aspect of museums.

Interestingly enough, the second component touches exactly on a theme central to our exhibit: Gathering Places.  Museums can be a social space like a bar, a football game, or, yes, a dog park. They are opportunities for face to face social interaction. Places to start conversations with random strangers and not have it be weird (or at least too weird). They foster not only an environment of shared learning, but of a shared experience.

This may also explain their popularity as party venues and evening at the museum events.

To briefly go back to the ted talk. Community engagement is not a guestbook or a wall to put post it’s up; that’s what online message boards are for, and to me it reeks of lazy design. With rare exception, exhibits that dedicate space to this seem to have extra space to fill before the exit, and it has been my experience that nine out of ten visitors pass by these sections without a thought. But there are ways to foster conversation.

I have seen it dealt with a number ways. With the exhibits that have strong characters throughout, passports or info cards are passed out at the beginning, tracing that character’s journey through the exhibit. Families compare and contrast their respective character’s journey and the decisions they make. Other museums used staffed activity carts, teaching small groups key exhibit concepts. Even color coding different levels of text can help visitors navigate an exhibit together, as younger visitors gain the basic knowledge that they can share with older audience members, and vice versa.
Given our small budget/timeframe/staffing, creating the right engagement tools will be a challenge, but I’m confident our team of three can figure out something new and interesting for the visitors at Sandy Spring.

Reality Show? You Decide.

As we round out week three of the work of the Extreme Exhibit Makeover teams, it’s clear that this project is unique because it brings together the world of reality television and museum work.

Leaving aside the team names, there are several elements of reality television reflected in this project.

In a reality television show, strangers often find themselves working with one another towards a common goal. They have to be able to quickly identify each team member’s weaknesses and strengths so that they can accomplish their goal quickly. Starting at the kick off, our teams have been communicating with the former strangers they now find themselves responsible to do just this.  Each person has to clearly identify what it is they are each good at and use that skill set to accomplish their common goal. And although there aren’t any judges waiting at the end of each challenge to give score to a meal or an outfit, they all know that the end of the project will be judged by the ultimate reality tv show judges–the general public.

Another aspect of reality television shows is that often contestants find themselves voted off, sent off for losing a challenge, or just find the stress of being under constant surveillance too much and go home. Similarly, the EEM has lost a couple of contestants–at least one from each team. No loss has been as dramatic as we often see on TV, but mature conversations have led some contestants to decide that this isn’t the project for them at this time. Although we don’t have the drama you’d find on the real Jersey Shore (Angelina, anyone?), it has been interesting to see teams and individual participants decide what the best path forward is. In a situation where a team of strangers is working towards a shared vision, it is almost impossible for them always agree on the best way to accomplish that vision. So this natural attrition has taken place with the EEM.

Perhaps the most important part of any “good” reality television show is the expertise of the participants. Whether you have premier chefs whipping up a meal from a bag of goodies, models attempting to win the prize by doing the best runway walk, or a woman completely re-modeling your entire house while you are at dinner, most reality shows rely on expertise. EEM is no different. Each of our participants are highly skilled at what they do. Each is bringing their own knowledge, expertise, and skill set to the table. And we are very excited to see what they come up with!

 

Introducting Team Kardashian…A Guest Blog by Team Leader Lindsay Brennan

Andrea Extreme Exhibit MakeOverPhoto Credit: Andrea Jones

Team Kardashian has had an eventful two weeks!

The team has gone back and forth about the direction of our exhibit which has caused tension within the team. We hit a road block early on when team members began research that not everyone was comfortable with.

After several emails of going back and forth we decided our only course of action was meeting to smooth out the wrinkles.

We had our second meeting on Monday where it was anything but dull! There were times when very strong opinions were made but the team made it through the meeting with ideas and a direction.

As the direction did not please all, it was time to make a decision so we can move forward, and now the team is hard at work.

Hopefully this will serve as a bonding experience and something we can look back on as a fun and interesting learning experience.

 

Editor’s Note: 

Below see some details of what Team Kardashian is up against with the “before” pictures of the Home Life Area.

 

 

Photo Oct 20, 11 41 13 AM

 

Photo Oct 20, 11 40 34 AM