Daily Archives: November 11, 2021

Involving Your Community in Exhibit Planning (2 of 2)

6. Determine project outcomes and effectiveness.
Program planning, implementation and evaluation are all parts of a whole and must be driven by an institution’s vision. This must be done at the beginning of the project development so the project is built around a clear understanding of what the museum wants to achieve and how it will determine success. Because both the baseball and hat exhibitions were history-based, we felt that civic pride was a foremost consideration. We wanted Trentonians, particularly children, to feel proud of their city’s history and know that its past achievements are part of their heritage, whether their families have been in the city for many generations or whether they were newcomers to the city, or even the country.

7. Market and promote your ideas.
Share with everyone you meet information about the project, who is involved with it, where you are in the process and you will reap unexpected rewards. In a conversation with a colleague during a coffee break at a seminar, I shared our idea about the upcoming baseball exhibit. He was very enthusiastic and told me that Cooperstown hosts a symposium every summer and scholars come to present papers on the history of the game. From this came the idea for three-part symposia featuring Negro League ball players, an expert on the Negro Leagues from Ohio, and former player and Trenton native Al Downing from California. Moreover, the daughter-in-law of the man who gave us the idea presented her paper on how minor league ball impacts on a community based on her intern experience with the Oneonta Yankees.

8. The new role of education
A recent museum journal states that “the principle of ‘public responsibility’ guaranteed that American museums would make education one of their principal purposes. The realization of this purpose, however, was not as obvious.” It is up to each one of our institutions to determine how to promote education. Perhaps part of the radical transformation is that people may be our most important collectible. We have studied how to coax objects to tell their stories; perhaps now we may want to shift our focus to the people in our communities to contribute theirs.

9. Be on the alert.
When involving the community, certainly you want to make sure the key people are recognized and thanked appropriately. Yet there will be times that oversights will occur and in the event they do occur deal with it at once. When the mayor made an appearance at the opening reception for “Hats off to Trenton” exhibition, he recognized the two milliners who proposed the exhibition based on their collection but overlooked another local milliner, an African American woman. I immediately approached her friends and posed the idea of a tea in her honor. It turned into a most memorable community event attended by hundreds of people— all wearing hats!10. Expect the Unexpected
Be open to possibilities, as there will be unknowns before, during and after the project. Some outcomes cannot be predicted. When you set out to plan a baseball exhibition to showcase the city’s history of the game, you think boys of summer, even nostalgia. But here’s what impressed one local sportswriter when the exhibition opened in spring, 1995. “Healing,” he wrote, “for the baseball blues, (for it was during the strike of major league baseball). It was during his visit to the exhibition on Trenton baseball that he found his solace— “Heart-stirring” he wrote, “and pure joy….”

imaginement ®   

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