Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Big Changes at the Museum: An Intern's Perspective

By Tori Riley, Curatorial and Education Intern

As you all may know, the CCHS has underwent a massive change in the past couple of months. The Bank Gallery was completely redone. The redesign process began my first week here at the museum and it has provided me with the unique opportunity to watch the changes unfold.
Our first task was preparing the walls to be redesigned. This entailed taking off all of the old text panels and pictures. In order to do that, we had to scrape all of the walls, which was definitely an interesting process. This was actually one of the first tasks I did here at CCHS, and let’s just say I was a bit over dressed the first day.  Nevertheless, I learned the most efficient ways and gathered only a few nicks and bruises. By the end of the tearing down stage, I officially knew the best way to take adhesive off the walls (it is a combination of fabric softener and elbow grease).  I also had some entertaining stories to share with my friends at school about scraping walls.

I also had the opportunity to help with the Exhibit Committee, which is made up of our Curator, Erin Doane, Educator, Kelli Huggins, and Archivist, Rachel Dworkin. This committee works to develop and design the different exhibits that come to CCHS.  They also write labels and approve on the general layout of the space. Additionally, they help to select objects and images that will fill the space. The meetings consist of going over layouts, editing labels and touring the space to visualize the space.  Again, this was an incredible learning experience of Oxford commas and creating the narrative of the county. Half of the exhibit describes the history of Chemung County (which admittedly I knew very little about prior to my internship). The other half highlights Mark Twain’s Elmira (you can learn what a Sanatorium is!).
If you have been to the museum in the past, you will know that there were a lot of cases and walls. The newly redesigned Bank Gallery features a completely new floor plan. To do this, we shifted all of the cases around. Well not necessarily us because a company was hired to do most of the heavy lifting (no pun intended).  The day before the big move, however, we moved many of the smaller cases out of the way and shifted some walls. When I came back that Wednesday the Gallery was completely redone. Erin and I worked to set the cases, risers and some of the smaller objects.

I have also been able to work with Kelli (Education Coordinator here at CCHS) to develop several of the interactive for the exhibit. These will be drawers and stations that you get to touch and experience history. I will not spoil these but I do want to let you know that the Civil War interactive is my personal favorite. Also, make sure you check out the Gilded Age entertainment one too!
One of the coolest things  about the exhibit was the giant printer! This printer is like five feet wide and can print up to 44 inches of paper, this actually was my staff pick a few weeks ago. All of the text panels, images and labels came from this behemoth of a printer. Although, it was a little nerve wracking putting up the text panels, Erin is a professional, so I let her take the lead.

The opening was next on our list. I was gone for a week on our midterm break and when I arrived back at the museum, it was four days before the opening! There was just a few last minute items  to be done, just some clean ups, setting  objects, and of course, testing the interactives. Then, before everyone knew it, it was Thursday and time for the opening. It was a rousing success and I hope everyone enjoyed it.  
It is hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment that I had, as I watched the gallery come together. It was always a little surreal to walk into the gallery and see it dissembled and think, "How are we ever going to finish this?". But we did and it was an excellent experience. One of the nicest things was that my opinions mattered and I have a piece of myself in that exhibit.  I hope to see you at the museum soon.  Remember to grab a selfie with Mark Twain!

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