So many announcements!

Whew!  it’s hard to keep up with all the great new developments and announcements that have been advertised recently on the Affiliations list, so here are the synopses again…

TRAVELING EXHIBITIONS:

canal.jpg Building America’s Canals by the National Canal Museum (affiliate) & the Science Museum of MN
Ideal for children’s history and science museums, the interactive exhibition puts the visitor in the role of canal engineer.  1600 square feet, $6,500 per 13-week period, plus inbound shipping.  Dates available from October 2009.

Soul Soldiers Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era by the Senator John Heinz History Center (affiliate)
Explores the impact of the Vietnam War on African American life and culture through  artifacts, photographs and more.  2600 square feet, $12,500 for 12-week period, plus prorated transport, medium security.  Dates available from February 2008

Artists in Studios Artists in their Studios from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art
55 framed original photographs of American artists in their studios, and approximately 20 related documents including letters & unpublished writings.  There’s a companion book, speaker list, and bibliography.  150 running feet,  $10,000 per 10-week period, prorated shipping with a AAA designated carrier, medium security.

PROGRAM OPPORTUNITIES:
SEEC  SEEC workshop, September 25-26
A two-day seminar for museum professionals, “Learning Through Objects: Museums and Young Children” at the Smithsonian, $300 for affiliates.

Holidays  Holidays on Display, lecture and booksigning by American History curator Larry Bird
Bird’s newest book traces the art and industry of holiday displays.  Dates in October, November, early December.  Cost is airfare, accommodations, and a modest per diem stipend. 


              

  

Judging exhibitions

Every quarter, educators from across the Smitsonian meet for an “exchange” of ideas around a common topic of interest. Last week I attended my first educators’ exchange, where we deconstructed the National Museum of Natural History’s Mammal Hall. We were trying out the theories of Beverly Serrell, whose new book, Judging Exhibitions: A Framework for Assessing Excellence provided parameters, criteria, and a scoring system.

NMNH's Mammal Hall Tiger in NMNH's Mammal Hall While this may sound a little formulaic (an exhibition is not an algebra problem after all), in practice of course, it is not – we discovered wildly varied responses to the same stimuli. Some of my collegues came away knowing more about the basics of being a mammal than they ever had, while others found the display somewhat too textbook-like. And so on.

It was worthwhile and enjoyable to me though, to subject an exhibition to these questions, even if we can’t agree on the results. I was forced to confront my “meaning of life” -type questions of why I go to museums in the first place, and what do I expect from them? What are my core values in spending my time this way? Ok, Museum 101. But aren’t these questions worth re-asking ourselves, and our exhibition teams, from time to time?

I do want an exhibition to challenge my thinking. Going with very simple ideas is ok, unless they are simple to a fault. I find successful interactives to be those that redirect my focus back to critical observation of objects to illuminate a point (that I could otherwise read in a book.) Low-tech (crawling under a tree trunk to see how squirrels live) is as, if not more, effective than computers and video. No, you can’t please every audience demographic. But little gestures to those outside the core target audience are significant and not difficult. Do you agree or are your values different?

My favorite comment was about majesty. To hear Smithsonian scientists talk about their work is to hear inspiration; they are professionals who truly love what they do. Translating passion into physical space is a lofty goal for which any exhibition should strive. That the Hall of Mammals achieved a level of majesty, a passionate spectacular majesty, is something on which we all could agree.

Traveling exhibitions available from the National Museum of Dentistry

The National Museum of Dentistry is pleased to announce the availability of two traveling exhibitions: The Future is Now! African Americans in Dentistry and Branches, Bristles and Batteries: Toothbrushes through Time.

The Future is Now! African Americans in Dentistry pays tribute to the extraordinary men and women who paved the way for African Americans’ success as dental professionals. With dramatic portraits, poignant memoirs and stories of individual and collective achievement, this exhibition inspires and educates visitors of every age.  The exhibition includes a moving photographic timeline of  the complex and inspiring story of individual accomplishment, educational advancement and organizational success from the 1860s through the present day; and provides a valuable new point of engagement with the youth of a host’s communities, with the potential to spark an interest in considering dentistry as a lifetime career.

The exhibition is appropriate for a wide range of museums, including institutions devoted to science, health, and history.  It is presented in partnership with the National Dental Association, and is available for a cost of $5,000 plus incoming shipping costs.  

Did you know that the first modern toothbrush was invented in the late 1700’s?  Filled with fascinating facts and fun activities for the whole family, Branches, Bristles and Batteries: Toothbrushes through Time allows children and adults to “brush up” on truths about toothbrushes while helping to develop habits that ensure good oral health. 

Targeted to elementary-age children, the exhibition includes interactives that encourage healthy eating, the importance of brushing, and an understanding of the toothbrush’s role in history.  It provides an excellent opportunity to partner with local professionals to promote dental health education outreach. 

The exhibition is appropriate for science, health and children’s museums, and is made possible by the support of United Concordia Companies, Inc.  It is available for a cost of $5,000 plus incoming shipping costs.

Educational and marketing materials, installation instructions and condition reports are included in the registration packets of both exhibitions.  To learn more about these exhibitions and for booking information, please contact Scott Swank, DDS, Curator at 410.706.8704 or sswank@dentalmuseum.umaryland.edu.