Friday, February 24, 2012

Changing Exhibits

by Frank Boles

Over the next few days the library staff will be changing exhibits. We will be removing an exhibit documenting the history of CMU and replacing it with a new exhibit opening February 29 documenting tourism in and around Little Traverse Bay between 1875 and 1925.

In the library’s cycle of activity, changing exhibits is a bittersweet moment. All of our exhibits are created by the staff for our exhibit space. Hundreds of hours go into developing an intellectual framework and narrative story, selection of material, preparation of exhibit items, and many other aspects of building and mounting the exhibit. A new exhibit, whatever the topic, brings with it new excitement and new challenges. All the preparation comes together in the last week and makes it possible for us to share a new story.

But at the same time, the “old show” that is being removed had at least as much blood, sweat, and tears put into it as the new exhibit being installed. It too had its moments of triumphs large and small, sudden, unanticipated problems, and in the end a sense of a job well done and a story well documented. As it comes down, and a show comes down much more quickly than it goes up, there is always a touch of sadness that the story told by the old show is being removed and that the hard work of so many people who made the exhibit possible is no longer available to inform, enlighten, and sometimes amuse.

Tuesday morning, knowing that the CMU exhibit would be gone by lunchtime, I took a final walk through the exhibit. I took one last look at the show, remembering what it took to bring the exhibit to life. I particularly recalled the generosity of various individuals who supplemented material found in the library with loaned items and the hard work of the library’s staff. Some might label the stroll a sentimental indulgence, but for me it was a moment to reflect on the talents and generosity of the people who make the exhibits possible and to remember all the hard work it takes to make exhibits happen.

The walk gave me a chance to reflect upon the debt of gratitude I, and everyone who enjoys the exhibits in the Clarke, owe to the people who plan and execute the Clarke Historical Library’s exhibits. They all have my deepest thanks.