Museum on the Move visualizes history
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s history department has recently been involved in several creative ventures to further its brand of education. Its latest venture, Museum on the Move, takes a tiny trailer and fills it with enough material to make for a visual experience akin to any other museum.
“If we are a program that’s teaching students to work in history museums, and history museums are in a situation where they need to find new ways to meet their audiences, then this is a way to give our students training and adjust to that,” said Robert Carriker, Ph. D., director of public history studies at UL Lafayette.
The idea and conception for the project began in the spring semester of 2013, where a public history course was taught. Another course in the fall semester capitalized on the progress made on the exhibit, until it had finally come into fruition this year. Those involved with the project say that setting up the exhibit was much easier than the planning undergone beforehand.
“It’s not terribly difficult,” said Scott. “This was actually the first time I did it by myself. It took maybe half an hour. Once we secure the pieces for the exhibit, it’s really just about setting it up.”
The theme for Museum on the Move this year was “Crossing the Line: Women in a Century of Change,” which detailed Louisiana women of prominence in the 19th and 20th centuries. Women featured in the exhibit included Lindy Boggs, the first Louisiana woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Georgia Johnson, an activist and NAACP member and Eliza Nicholson, the first female publisher of The Times-Picayune.
“The biggest challenge was probably selecting which women we were going to choose, because we had about 40 choices to pick from,” said Scott. “There was a lot of debating on the theme of the exhibit and who we were going to include in the exhibit.”
Carriker also emphasized the importance of the women chosen in the exhibit, given the sheer number of choices that were available to those working on the project.
“The exhibit is on Louisiana women, and the exhibit features 10 women going back all the way to the 1800s,” said Carriker. “That’s no small task, because in selecting 10 women you are leaving aside a hundred.”
Carriker notes that setting up the exhibit, which involved totally remodeling the trailer that it inhabits, was by far the most grueling aspect of the job. The organization and neon lights of the interior provide a comfortable contrast to the farmers’ market outside that the exhibit is housed under.
The Museum on the Move project comes at a time when the UL Lafayette history department is working on a number of creative ways to educate its students as well as the local community.
Carriker noted Museum on the Move as well as a mobile app that profiles Acadiana history on smartphones, as examples that currently showcase the ingenuity of the department.
“If you look at just those three things, we are by far the most innovative history program in the South, so it’s really a neat thing that we’re doing here,” said Carriker. “When you look at the faculty that we have that contributes to it, it’s really an exciting thing.”