Topic: History Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Kaia Landon

Published on March 05, 2012

  • Description and goals

    Wanted was an attempt to get the community more involved with the museum by soliciting help identifying people, places, and things in photographs in the museum’s collection. The exhibition included 50 photographs selected from photographs with the least information in the museum’s collection database.

  • Development process and challenges

    We put this exhibition together quite quickly to fill a small slot when construction to the building was delayed. We already had the frames, so the only expenses were mats for the frames (which we’ll be able to reuse), and printing the pictures themselves (about $20, since we went with black and white). We were already in the process of scanning our photographs (with temporary staffing paid for by a grant) so it was a simple matter to prioritize the photos we selected for the exhibition for digitization.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    1. Many people were hesitant to write directly on the labels, especially if they were unsure. Museum staff spent a lot of time encouraging visitors to write even tentative identifications down with a question mark. This turned out to be a good practice, as it opened a dialog with later visitors who would either erase the question mark, or add another tentative identification.
    2. As this was our first attempt with having people identify things in our photos, we tried to select some of our older photos. This turned out to be a mistake – anything older than about 1950 was almost a total bust. (In retrospect, if I came across an unidentified photo of my great-grandparents (who died before I was born) I wouldn’t recognize them.) Some people mentioned that they would go home and look through family histories and call us if they found someone. (No one ever did.) For the older photos, we’re hoping that an upcoming initiative that will put them online will enable some identifications since people will be able to compare them directly to photos in family histories. If we mount this sort of exhibit in the future, we will not do very many photos from the pre-1950 years. (Nevertheless, people loved some of the older photos.)

  • Exhibition Opened: September 2011

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Brigham City, UT, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000 sq ft.

Latest Comments (4)

what a great idea

by Kathleen Mclean - March 12, 2012

Kaia, I really love this idea, and will try to get other museums to try it. K

I love it!

by Sara Manzanares rubio - June 01, 2012

I find really stimulating the way you transform a very simple idea in a challenging experience.I hope the idea of expanding the project to your site can take place. It sounds great!

Information trickes in!

by Kaia Landon - June 01, 2012

Here we are eight months later and we just received an email from someone who lives about 80 miles away but visited the exhibition. He thought an individual in one of the photos was his great-grandfather, and has been busily tracking down photos from other family members. He’s been able to identify him in the photo, and has given us other photos of him and additional information.

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