Put on your museum thinking caps and get ready to create your very own exhibit—at home!
In this activity, participants will learn about various phases of the museum exhibit development process. In addition, participants will gain an understanding of museum careers that are integral to the exhibit development process such as curator, registrar, experience designer, and filmmaker through personal interviews from CHM’s own team. Lastly, participants will design a museum exhibit at home with five personal objects, or what we in the museum world call artifacts.
Select a personal item, piece of clothing, retro technology, book, and photo to include in your museum exhibit at home.
This exercise is broken up into four different sections, each highlighting an important role in the exhibit development process. Learn about each role and each step in the process from our CHM team. Put your new skills to the test and create your #MyCHMExhibit by completing the activity worksheet. Try this on your own or in teams of 2-4.
A museum exhibit is related to the museum’s mission. CHM’s mission is to decode technology for everyone. Put simply this means CHM takes a technology, explains what it is, where it came from, and what it means in people’s lives. Your home museum could have a different mission.
Think about what your home museum mission might be as you plan your #MyCHMExhibit.
Choose a topic! One of the first steps in developing an exhibit is choosing a topic you would like to interpret for your visitors. A topic could be about a person, place, or thing; or it could be an abstract idea, like Love or Childhood. Once the topic is chosen, the curator will research the topic to develop some mastery of the subject and identify artifacts from the collection that supports it.
The registrar finds the artifacts the curator has selected in the collection. The registrar assesses the condition of the artifacts, measures them, considers how they might be mounted in the exhibit, and creates a catalog record for each artifact.
Once the main topic and artifacts are chosen, the experience designer will develop key messages, usually three to five things we want visitors to learn, feel, or consider about the topic. It helps to think about your exhibit as a story but with some key takeaway messages, almost like a story with a moral. Once the story has been developed, it’s time to consider how the story will be told, in other words, the design of the exhibit.
Video, along with other interactive and interpretive media, is a key part of making an exhibit. A video can capture multiple points of view, relate personal stories, and evoke emotions to make an exhibit more compelling for visitors. A video can create atmosphere through images, sound effects, and music.
Once your exhibit is done, test it with real visitors or family members/friends. Notice if your visitors are picking up on your key messages and takeaways in a post visit interview about what they learned or experienced. Observe to see if they are enjoying themselves or asking interesting questions. Do they seem bored or confused? If so, figure out which parts of the exhibit you can improve. You can always change your exhibit based on visitor feedback and try again!