In a recent newsletter I mentioned a little game we sometimes play here at the museum – “What’s your favorite artifact?”. Actually, we seem to play and talk about this topic very often. It seems that with over 27,000 eclectic artifacts at Museum Village, there is no shortage of possibilities. And, as is often the case, depending upon day and time, we all change our minds. Today it may be Harry, tomorrow it may be the Hog Oiler.
During the cold winter months when people may think the museum is locked up and shuttered, we are forever planning. We spend hours debating the new exhibits and displays. So, sitting around the table with Lori, Samantha, Holly, Dawn and Christine it really is a “Round Table Discussion” and some intense “Brain Storming”.
We look at each and every building and talk about how we can update, enhance and improve the exhibits. We talk about which artifacts stay, which do we move to storage for another day and which do we add. Our goal is to make sure the visitor first of all enjoys the exhibit, sees something new from the last visit, and wants to return again.
So what does go into the thought process of our exhibits? Let’s take a time journey into one of our last exhibit debates and maybe get an idea. For this particular session we will talk about the Log Cabin. (This log cabin originally stood just beyond the forest of Dean’s Mine, halfway between Central Valley and Highland Falls, New York. It was built sometime in the late 18th century, probably after the Revolutionary War. Like most log cabins, additions and siding were added later.)
First thought is what do we want to highlight? Yes, there may not be many changes here but it is still a necessary process we must go through.
“So what do we highlight here?”
“I think the Toe Toaster is pretty neat. It’s fun to show this to the kids.”
“I agree. Toe Toaster. Toasts bread at ground level and you use your foot to turn it over. Kids do like that.”
“Kids do like hearing about it. And, of course, there’s the Rope Trundle Bed and Bed Key. It has a great story and everyone is always interested.”
“Great artifacts and stories. Don’t want to make any changes there.
“Showing everyone the first brillo pad is neat. Showing everyone how pots and pans were scrubbed. Everyone should be happy they have a dish washer.”
“Also, the horn spoon/lantern. This shows how nothing was ever wasted. Not like today.”
“Are there any problems we ran into recently that we need to address or any new artifacts we should add to the interpretation?”
This conversation can go on for quite some time and very often carries over day after day. And since the buildings in the village are entwined together – Supplies for the School House and be “purchased” in the Merritt General Store – we find ourselves going from building to building over and over again.
The debate and discussion are never over as we work on making sure the visitor is informed and entertained. “Our favorite artifacts” keep prompting us to boast about what we have. We are proud and we want the demonstration and exhibit to create a discussion and conversation. And we want it to be memorable. The discussion shouldn’t end when you leave the museum. It should just take you on another route back to asking more questions.
The artifacts here at the museum are very precious and some of them, as you can imagine, are indeed very special to each of us. When you have the opportunity to visit the museum and enjoy our exhibits and displays, please take to time to talk with us. Ask us about our favorites.
As you’re leaving Museum Village, think and ask yourself: “What was my favorite artifact? What will I remember for a long time? What unexpected surprises did I enjoy the most?”