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The Exhibit Process

Follow the Historical Administration Class as we imagine, plan, design, construct and install the Experiences of the Illinois Civil War Soldier exhibit.  This page will show the visitor snapshots of each stage in the process, allowing you to observe the class in action. To put together an exhibit takes thousands of man hours. Considerable strategy goes into each phase of development and, while the year-long project has been challenging, the learning experiences have been undeniable.

The Planning Stage

When developing an exhibit, it is best to determine what audiences will anticipate in a Civil War exhibit. Only after this can curators begin to formulate ideas. To do this, our class conducted a front end analysis, interviewing members of the community for their input.

Click here to see our front end evaluation form and report.

Following the collection of data from this analysis, the class developed goals and themes for the exhibit. We brought together research, objectives, and innovative proposals to defined the main idea and create the title of the exhibit. This collaborative brainstorming culminated in the design brief, outlining the primary themes of the exhibit.

Click here to see our design brief.

Object Selection and Design

Our exhibit is exclusively comprised of loaned artifacts, so a major facet of this project was researching and contacting various institutions and inquiring the availability of choice objects. After contacting museums such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the Illinois State Military Museum, our class visited these locations to select artifacts that fit our exhibit goals.

Click here to see our final artifact list.

Above: Ideas are discussed and designs are created and displayed in the in the Historical Administration classroom.

Near right: Susan, Wade, and Molly unroll the 123rd Illinois volunteer flag (a Charleston unit) at the Illinois State Military Museum.

Far right: The class investigates historical drawings at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.


Once we selected our preferred objects, we then moved into the design phase of the development process. The next step was to organize the artifacts into the groups defined by our themes developed in the design brief. This resulted in the preliminary label outline, a rough draft of content of our exhibit. This draft underwent several rounds of meticulous editing before arriving at its final iteration.

Click here to see our preliminary label outline.

After themes and content are developed, the actual physical aesthetic of the exhibit can be designed. The design team created a floor plan by physically implementing the categories determined in the label outline onto the gallery space, positioning artifacts and panels in a logical path around the E-gallery.

Clich here to view the exhibit floor plan.

Fabrication and Installation

Once the artifacts were acquired, each student picked an object and designed a mount. Mounts are used to adequately display an artifact on exhibit, while also serving to protect it from damage.

Click here to view a plan for an artifact mount.

Over the span of four days, the class mounted and installed the exhibit in the Tarble Arts Center's eGallery, the culmination of our year-long project. It is on display through July 7, so make sure to stop by and take a look!