Welcome to the Exhibits Division

Hello from the Exhibits Team. My name is Greg Palumbo and I am the Exhibits Manager here at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki. This is my first blog and I have to say I feel like we are off to a good start, introductions are out of the way and we can dig in to what we do to build exhibits.

Hello from the Exhibits Team. My name is Greg Palumbo and I am the Exhibits Manager here at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki. This is my first blog and I have to say I feel like we are off to a good start, introductions are out of the way and we can dig in to what we do to build exhibits. Along with myself, Stephen Ast is our Exhibits Coordinator and the boss around here is Saul Drake our Curator of Exhibits. While we have a structure for the paperwork side of things we really work as a team to develop engrossing exhibits that will make you want to come to the museum and learn something. As a team we develop themes along with the Interpretive Planning Committee for the topic we want to interpret, and we fill the exhibit with the help of the collections staff (whom you heard from in our first blog post, check it out if you missed it).

Ok I skimmed over a lot of stuff there, right? Let’s hit some bullets; Interpretive Planning Committee, that’s a group of people including exhibits, education, outreach, Tribal Members, and collections, which develop themes and storylines for the museum. Our staff’s structure; Saul is at the top as our Curator, he decides what topics we are covering, what needs to be researched, chooses artifacts that will be used, and writes up the text. Under Saul is myself as the Exhibits Manager, I design the physical layout, decide how things will be mounted and protected, create the schedule for install and deinstall, make sure we are falling within our budget on construction costs, and generally make things look good. Under me is Stephen as the Exhibits Coordinator, his responsibilities include assisting me with the install and deinstall of the exhibits, coordinating all of our traveling exhibits both incoming and outgoing, the necessary roll of a graphic designer, and he is in charge of making sure our labels are all correct as well as printing them up. On top of all of that Stephen is also in charge of making sure general maintenance is carried out on all of our exhibits. For a small staff we cover a lot of ground. That was just a quick listing of our responsibilities; there are many more facets to each and a hundred little things in between.

Often times the Exhibits Division, and this is true for many museums, is seen as the more artistic and less pragmatic side of what a museum does. However, over the last several decades the practice of Interpretation has become much more the ability to marry the artistic with the scientific. Our goal is to create an interesting experience for our visitor that engages them and leaves them a little more knowledgeable and a little more likely to take a moment to think about how they are affected from day to day by what they have learned; whether that be correcting misinformation about the Seminole Tribe, or changing something they might do that would impact the Everglades’ ecosystem.

Right now we are working on some really interesting exhibits for the next year. The one I am looking forward to the most is a militaria exhibit focusing on the Seminole Wars. It will be one of the largest and best collections of guns from this period in South Florida. Another one that is coming up quickly is an exhibit of postcards at our Okalee facility. Now if you have been a fan of the museum for a while you will remember an exhibit a few years back called Postcards: Our People Look Back. That exhibit focused on the people who took the photos that would become postcards in the tourist trade. Our new exhibit will be focusing on the topics that the postcards cover and the people in the photographs. It will also have nearly six times more postcards than the old exhibit. In the next week or so I will be working very hard to get the layout set for “Postcards” and we will be settling on a name for the exhibit. If everything goes well the next post from me will be during the install of that exhibit.

Well there you have it, first post from the Exhibit Division, hope you didn’t find it too long winded and that maybe you learned a little about how the stuff you see in a museum gets there, if you didn’t and have questions let me know, and if you thought I was a bag of wind… keep that one to yourself. Sho-na-Bish!

Behind the Scenes at a Museum: Collections-Style

To start out this blog I thought I would talk a bit about what us little known, and in many cases little seen, collection staff members do at the Museum.

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Blog. In this blog we hope to give all visitors a “behind the scenes” view of just what goes on at our Museum. This can span from new acquisitions that are brought into the Museums collections, to a new exhibit that might be in production, to some of the various special events the Museum puts on through its education and outreach programs.

To start out this blog I thought I would talk a bit about what us little known, and in many cases little seen, collection staff members do at the Museum. The collections at the Museum are managed by 6 staff members. The Museum itself has over 11,000 objects in its various collections, but only a small portion of the objects are on display at any time. In fact almost all museums who have collections keep most of them in specialized, and secured, storage areas. As the Museum Registrar, it is my main job to make sure that all objects owned by the Museum are stored properly and can be easily accessed if they are needed. At this point most visitors ask me about what happens to all of the objects that are left in storage. Are they left in a closed, darkened room, where no one is ever allowed to access them? (Visions of the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark tend to come to mind at this point).

CollectionVault
Inside the vault at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki

Well this idea is partially true. All objects not currently on exhibit are kept in our secured collection areas. The collection areas are kept at a constant temperature (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity, a great thing in the middle of hot Florida summers) and all lights are turned off when no one is working in the storage area to help prevent light damage to the objects. But rather than never being accessed, the objects are constantly monitored by collection staff members for further signs of deterioration. If any major problems are noted, the object is transferred to our conservation lab where the on-staff conservator begins to stabilize the object. Objects are also pulled for study and viewing by both researchers, who of course make an appointment to view the objects, and Tribal members. Collection staff are also constantly ensuring that the objects are stored correctly and that all important information about them is reflected in our electronic database. So rather than being the closed off, inaccessible, place most visitors might think of when they get a glimpse of our storage, the collection areas are in fact some of the most active “behind the scenes” areas of the Museum.