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