Where do exhibit ideas come from? How is an exhibit developed? What new historical discoveries can research uncover? Looking back at topics from the Mill House to Mill Workers, from Civil War soldiers, WWII, the 1950’s and Lost Laurel, Behind the Bricks: 20 Years of the Laurel Museum, which opened February 7th at the Laurel Museum answers these questions. The behind the scenes look explores the discoveries, collections, volunteers and staff that inspired and created more than 20 exhibits since the Laurel Museum’s brick home opened to the public in May 1996.
Visitors to the exhibit will see the 1845 Laurel Cotton Mill ledger, a George Nye Diary, women’s hats from the 1940s and 50s, one of Bert Sadler’s early 20th century glass photographic plates, postcards, a Laurel-made grandfather clock, historical documents and more from the Museum’s collection. They will also obtain insights into 20 years of exhibits.
“Visitors to the Laurel Museum often ask how we develop an exhibit and how we keep coming up with new ideas each year,” stated LHS Executive Director Lindsey Baker. “Behind the Bricks: 20 Years of the Laurel Museum is our opportunity to let visitors take a peek behind the scenes into how exhibits are produced at the Laurel Museum. Our goal is to let visitors learn a little bit more about how their community museum decides to shape the stories about Laurel’s history year after year.”
Behind the Bricks: 20 Years of the Laurel Museum is divided into 10 sections. The sections “From Idea to Exhibit,” “HATJAT: Here’s A Thought, Just A Thought,”* and “A New Twist on Old Ideas”, explore the various inspirations, opportunities and materials that establish a specific exhibit theme and focus. Sometimes it’s an anniversary, such as The Civil War or WWII, and other times a particular collection, such as postcards or the Sadler collection of photographs that spark the idea. The exhibit also explores how items such as the Sadler collection photographs, and Laurel Leader newspapers can reappear with a new and different emphasis and new interpretation, allowing visitors to see them with fresh eyes. For example, the 15th exhibit, Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010 used Sadler photos from 1910 to compare Laurel 100 years apart. Twelve years earlier, the 1997 exhibit explored Bert Sadler’s photos as art as well as community photographs documenting our history.
“There’s Something About the Mill” continues the new interpretive theme with a twist. Community interest, deep resources, and its role in Laurel’s origins and growth all contribute to the many exhibits that have encompassed the Laurel Cotton Mill story from George Nye and His Diaries to True Life: I am a Laurel Mill Worker. “From Our Attic to Yours” explores the Museum collection, how it grows and introduces us to some of the collectors who have helped complete various exhibits. Additional sections include, “Exhibit Development Lab,” “Introduction,” and a special timeline that covers the period from before the Museum had a permanent home to the present. This allows visitors to revisit all the exhibits including those displayed in various locations before the building opened to the public. Finally, the sections “Volunteer” and “Laurel Shop” including a display of all of the holiday ornaments round out the exhibit.
Behind the Bricks: 20 Years of the Laurel Museum runs through December 18, 2016. The Laurel Museum is open Wednesdays and Fridays 10 AM - 2 PM, and Sundays 1 - 4 PM and is free. Visits by school groups and tours over 10 people can be scheduled on other days by appointment. The John Brennan Research Library is open Mondays by appointment. For more information visit www.laurelhistoricalsociety.org.
*HATJAT is a word developed by LHS members Ken Skrivseth and Karen Lubieniecki that has become a frequent part of the LHS Lexicon.