Museums and art galleries create exhibits to showcase specific topics of interest. These can be about a specific moment, historic event, person, interpretation, or almost anything deemed educational. The challenge for museums is to present exhibits that focus on their missions or at least are viewed through them. For instance, a car museum will create an exhibit about cars but may add an artistic twist to it by adding music, paintings, or audiovisual elements that simulate car sounds. This is just a sample, but it gives an idea of the many ways museums can share their histories, artifacts, and narratives.
The Gorgas House Museum seeks to share the histories of the Gorgas family, but that interpretation is expanding and includes exhibits, research, and interpretations based on the entire history of the University of Alabama. Recent displays and exhibitions include the role of women on campus, student and enslaved life, and archaeological excavations at the home. By exploring and sharing these histories, the Gorgas House offers a more holistic and broader message to our visitors while also staying true to the museum’s original mission.
The role of exhibit development and research falls on the staff and volunteers at the museum. Fortunately for the Gorgas House, its position in the middle of the University of Alabama provides an ideal location to foster volunteer and engagement opportunities such as these. Currently, we are collaborating with an upcoming sophomore in the Department of History to develop an exhibit on William C. Gorgas and his role in the construction of the Panama Canal. Not only does it provide an exhibition for the public, but these partnerships also help students develop research skills and learn artifact conservation practices. Be on the lookout for the opening of this exhibit soon.
– Written by Brandon Thompson, Director of the Gorgas House Museum