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:



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.




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.



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


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

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.



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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!

Photo Oct 20, 11 47 20 AM

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.