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Going Local: Creating Local History Exhibits Your Visitors Won't Forget

Thursdays, July 23 through August 20, 10:00 a.m. CT Erin McClelland, Director of Operations, MuseWork Register now!

This free, five-part online workshop series will teach you the fundamental skills and concepts you need to understand how to incorporate local history Texas stories into your exhibits – especially traveling exhibits. We’ll begin by reviewing the vast array of Texas history resources available to you, move on to discuss the fundamentals of interpretive planning and writing, and then, explore ways to make your exhibit text more engaging and thought-provoking to visitors. Once we’ve covered the basics, we’ll examine techniques for interpreting those difficult stories that make everyone squirm. Finally, we’ll end with a session on how to select the most compelling images available and create a visually appealing and engaging exhibit. By the end of this series, you’ll be well prepared to infuse your local history stories into any exhibit – traveling, temporary, or permanent!

Instructor Erin McClelland has 15 years of experience in the interpretation and exhibit planning field. She currently serves as the Director of Operations for MuseWork, a full-service exhibit planning and design firm in Austin. This workshop series is presented by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Texas Association of Museums.

Week 1. July 23 Make Them Care, Part 1: How to Create More Memorable and Compelling Exhibits through Interpretation We’ll begin by reviewing the many places you can search for local, regional, and statewide history resources. Then we’ll introduce the basics of interpretation: what it is, why it’s effective, and how to make your exhibits more relevant to visitors using concepts like themes and universals. We’ll wrap up the session by introducing Sam Ham’s three-step process for theme writing. You’ll walk away from this webinar with an understanding of how to reach your visitors more effectively through the written word. Make sure you come back next week, when we’ll discuss how to build on a theme to create an entire interpretive exhibit.

Week 2: July 30 Make Them Care, Part 2: How to Create More Memorable and Compelling Exhibits through Interpretation Building on the previous week’s webinar, this time we’ll explore ways you can build on an interpretive theme to create a conceptual framework for your entire exhibit. With a special emphasis on hierarchy and repetition, you’ll learn techniques to make your exhibits clearer, easier to follow, and most importantly, more memorable for your visitors.

Week 3. August 6 Give ‘Em Something to Talk (and Think) About: Strategies for Engaging and Provoking Exhibit Audiences Today we’ll discuss how you can make your exhibits more engaging and thought-provoking to visitors. We’ll focus on how the tone and voice of your labels signal to visitors early on about how to engage with your exhibits. We’ll also look at specific techniques for writing more active, engaging labels that get visitors thinking and talking more about the stories your exhibits tell.

Week 4: August 13 Well, That Was Awkward: Interpreting Difficult Stories in Your Exhibits We all have those difficult stories in our collections: stories of oppression, injustice, discord, and disgrace that are uncomfortable to remember and discuss in private, let alone in a public space. That doesn’t make them any less important to tell, though. In fact, your exhibits can become a place where people feel more comfortable exploring these tough topics. We’ll explore exactly what makes these stories so difficult for people to grapple with and accept, and we’ll review various writing and exhibit design techniques you can use to help your visitors better engage with these challenging topics.

Week. 5 August 20 Made You Look!: How to Select Visuals that Will Keep Visitors Engaged with Your Exhibits We often focus closely on the words in an exhibit to the exclusion of other elements, forgetting that exhibits are an inherently visual medium. If your visual components – photos, graphics, maps, etc. – aren’t compelling, you aren’t reaching as many visitors as you could. We’ll discuss how you can use high-quality images and visuals to maintain audience interest and give you guidelines for selecting the right type of visual in a given situation. Then we’ll do a deep dive into photography and explore what makes a photograph “exhibit worthy.” We’ll wrap up by reviewing the dos and don’ts of font selection and panel composition.

All online workshops in this series will be recorded. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend each session, as they will building on each other over the five weeks. Links to the recordings and handouts will be posted on this page within 24 hours of each session.

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