This week’s post comes from Erik, our museum studies student assistant. He shares with us the purpose and planning of our newest exhibit. Look for more exhibit information from Erik later this spring!
The exhibit is titled “Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement,” and with the space available it truly is a mere reflection. Entire museums have been devoted to the study of the Civil Rights Movement, and even they barely scratch the surface of the rich history behind this topic. The objective of this exhibit is to utilize the materials of the Poage Legislative Library in such a way to shed light on topics that are less discussed than the mainstream aspects of the Civil Rights Movement.
The idea for an exhibit focused on the African-American Civil Rights Movement was born from the John F. Kennedy exhibit that was completed over the summer. Inside the exhibit is one case that discusses the legacy that JFK had on the Civil Rights Movement. There is simply too much information on this seminal event in American History to have only a single case devoted to it, so the decision was made to replace the small exhibit, which examined the many assassination theories surrounding JFK, with a Civil Rights themed exhibit.
The Poage Legislative Library houses the papers and materials of several former Members of Congress, and it was important that any relevant materials to the Civil Rights Movement be highlighted. It was for this reason that the papers of John Howard Griffin were included in the exhibit. Donated to the library by Michael Jones, the John Howard Griffin collection includes articles, papers, and books related to the author. He is best known for his book, Black Like Me, where he chemically darkens his skin and writes about his experiences in the South. The book had a significant impact on the way Americans viewed the struggles faced by African-Americans, and it is still read in classrooms across the Unites States, a testament to its relevancy even today.
The initial plan was to have one case tell the story of Waco during the Civil Rights Movement. However, the knowledge that the great World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco immediately changed the focus. We decided to take this opportunity to educate the Baylor students and public on the huge contribution Dorie made to the initial war effort. While it is important to have a plan for every case in an exhibit before the research commences, it is equally important to be flexible enough to let the research guide the theme of the case instead of the initial plan dictating the research.
The exhibit installation process began in February. It is important to cut down on the amount of time that it takes an exhibit to be built because the main priority is to protect the objects used and then engage the public as quickly as possible. The themes for all of the cases had been decided upon in December and most of the materials had been prepped. This included sizing and editing the labels, backing the pictures and political cartoons, and finding all of the stands necessary for displaying the objects properly. For each case I chose one item that I wanted to highlight and layered the remaining objects around them. While creativity is obviously important when it comes to exhibit design and placement, the theme of the case must not be compromised and each case should tell a story. The physical location of the objects plays a large role in dictating this, and the set-up for every case is different. The location of the cases also influences how visitors use and experience the exhibit, and for that reason I chose to pull one of the cube-cases forwards to allow visitors to walk around the case thereby make the small exhibit more interactive.
Thanks for sharing, Erik!