Curator's Corner Blog

Monthly Archives: March 2012

What’s in a WWII poster?

Training Day: As collections prepares the WWII posters for exhibition, the education department must also prepare its docents (tour leaders) for the exhibit.  Education experts from the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, MT came for an all day, in-depth Visual Teaching Strategies workshop.  Over 15 docents, and three museum staff members attended the session to learn a new way to look at WWII posters.

VTS Workshop

VTS workshop with HMFM docents.

Instead of focusing on the historical information related to the posters, VTS treats each poster as a work of art to be pondered over.  In an effort to encourage critical, creative, organic thinking the proven method of VTS requires participants to communicate what they see in the poster, and effectively back up these claims with evidence from the poster.  This teaching method will be valuable when docents lead tours, especially school groups, through the exhibit.  We hope it will foster thoughtful discussion, and encourage interest in the posters and WWII itself.

VTS Workshop 02

HMFM Docent Angie, practicing a VTS discussion.

Ask yourself these three questions when you walk through the WWII poster exhibit:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can you find?


Inventory, Interns & Volunteers…OH MY!

Inventory:  A complete collections inventory is in full-swing and all hands are on deck.  We have been plugging away at a full-scale inventory of all collections items (over 50,000 artifacts) for over 6 months.  It involves a physical evaluation of each item, as well as photographing, and updating our museum database.  As you can imagine, it’s overwhelming at times.

Here is an example of a collections piece that has been inventoried:

Collections Piece

Photographed collections piece

We have several outstanding interns and volunteers who have taken on this project with us.  Their contributions to the museum are priceless!


Meghan Baker, Browman Fellow

Meghan Baker, Browman Fellow

Meghan is finishing up her senior year at UM with a B.A. in Anthropology and History.  She’s been with the museum for almost a year, and is currently working here as a Browman Fellow.



Blake Reynolds, Browman Fellow

Blake Reynolds, Browman Fellow

Blake is new to Montana and the museum.  He’s majoring in History at UM, and is also a Browman fellow this semester.




Sarah Carrier, Student Intern

Sarah Carrier, Student Intern

Sarah finishes her B.A. in History this spring, and has worked for the museum for two semesters as a student intern cataloging items from the Photo/Document room.




And Volunteers:

Katie Matthew, volunteer

Katie Matthew, volunteer

Katie lends a helping hand twice a week, and her project involves inventorying our textile rooms.




Victory Machart, HMFM superstar

Victor Machart, HMFM superstar

Victor is a long-time museum volunteer, docent, valuable Friends of the Museum member, HMFM board memeber, and incoming Vice President.  He and is also helping to inventory.  His focus is on our basement collections.



Sherwood Moore, volunteer and docent

Sherwood Moore, volunteer and docent

Sherwood is a volunteer working on inventory in the photo/document room, and he will also be a docent this year.


Bringing Down the Walls: The de-installation of the “Fires of 1910” exhibit- part deux

Day Two: Arrived bright and early for the labor intensive part of de-installation. This is the day we are happy to have our “muscle”, Intern Blake.

Intern Blake disassembling a display case.

While Nicole and I can hold our own, there are just some things petite 5’2” women need a little extra help with.

Nicole and Cathy Jo holding their own.



Now that all artifacts are removed from the Heath Gallery, we can start recreating the space. In other words, bringing down the walls, roofs, and any other structural pieces that won’t be part of the April 2012 “United We Will Win” WWII poster exhibit.

Nicole, Cathy Jo, and Blake bringing down the walls.

I’ve had two cups of coffee and am running the power drill to remove screws to take down walls…Nicole can only laugh nervously.  While I merrily operate the power tools, Curator Nicole operates as the brain of the de-install. She’s logistics, strategist, and problem solver.

One by one, plexi walls come down. Before we know it the Heath Gallery space is transformed. It is becoming easier to visualize spatially where posters will go, and how the upcoming exhibit will flow. By 5 o’clock quitting time all we can do as a group is take a step back and say “wow”. We’ve just deconstructed a major exhibit in 2 days. In case you are wondering, yes that’s pretty amazing.

Even more photos of the de-installation:

Interns Katie and Blake, with Curator Nicole.

We're done...whew!



Bringing Down the Walls: The de-installation of the “Fires of 1910” exhibit

Day one: We waste no time in getting into the Heath Gallery to begin the de-installation of the successful Fires of 1910 exhibit which was up from 2009-2012.  It was a great three years, but like all good things it must come to a close. The excitement of a fresh new exhibit is palpable. Both myself and Curator Nicole, can hardly wait to break out the power drill, hammer, and get cracking. First, we must carefully remove all artifacts from the exhibit.

About 80% of the Fires of 1910 exhibit artifacts came from private or other institutional loans. Museums work together in this way so that the public can be privy to more than just the local museum collection. Bringing in outside artifacts allows us to tell the story as accurately as possible.

I am always impressed with the organization and painstaking documentation it requires to create, maintain, and display a successful exhibit. Nicole and I spend the rest of the day sorting through artifacts, ensuring each one is accounted for and will be returned to the rightful owner. Taking down the exhibit has another component which includes photo documentation of anything from our collection. Intern Sarah photographs each HMFM artifact from the exhibit and then it is returned to its home, usually in the basement collections.

End of day one is a brief pat on the back (all artifacts removed except for the giant stuffed Smokey the Bear!), and a game plan for day two. Note to self: wear sneakers and jeans, we’re going to get dirty!