The new model is concise.

How do you summarize thousands of objects, and millions of stories into 50 words?

This is the struggle modern museums face while adapting to the phenomena of the digital age. Minimizing word usage while increasing content, creating a clear and concise message that speaks volumes while barely speaking at all. The importance of clarity is driven by the element of time, and the competition for attention. Finding the right words to say can be the difference between staying or leaving. Between entrancing and boring.

Finding the right words to say can spark the fire of exploration or drown you in the waters of inaccessibility on one and inundation on the other.

The National Air and Space Museum turned their museum into 100 terms, and is looking to trim that count down to 50. The National Museum of African American History and Culture strives for 75 words or less to accompany their objects on exhibit. The National Museum of the American Indian strategizes by thinking of an exhibit without words and building from that point to incorporate the right words to tell their story.

Is 50, 75, 100, or even 150 words enough? Can a story be told without words? Can it be told through emotions evoked and visuals viewed?

Can a museum grab your attention with bold conciseness and encourage deeper delving into a script behind the word?

That’s the new model.  The new test that can only be graded through trials and time.

How tall are you?

Today, I found out just how tall people are.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is an immersive exploration into American history, culture, and art, covering huge topics from slavery to civil rights and jazz to rock n’ roll. What each story artfully breaks down to is people, and, more importantly, specific people and groups that are representative of a larger story, an American story.

2011.51.13

Photograph of James Brown, Civil War veteran, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln

In the end, these people were just people who actively, forcefully, or passively took and take part in this narrative.

These people were and are people with the same skills as other people.

They create art just like other people.

They create communities and identities like other people.

And, no matter what his or her stature in the public eye, or even within the context of history, they wear clothes just like you.

TJ Statue

The Paradox of Liberty Exhibit

Some might wear a small jacket, some might wear a large jacket, but, ultimately, we all wear jackets at some point in time.

Today, I learned just how tall some people are.  And, it made me realize more than ever that they were just people too.

Miles Davis – 5’7″
Michael Jackson – 5’9″
Thomas Jefferson – 6’2″
Abraham Lincoln – 6’4″
Gabby Douglas – 4’11”
Oprah Winfrey – 5’7″
Me – 5’10”

Photograph of James Brown, Civil War Veteran, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln – https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2011.51.13?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Dlincoln%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch

Green coat worn by Oprah Winfrey as Sofia in The Color Purple – https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2014.184.1.2?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Doprah%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch

Jacket worn by Michael Jackson – https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2011.19?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Djacket%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch

Leotard worn by Gabby Douglas during her first competitive season – https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2013.12.1?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Ddouglas%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch

Jacket made by Joe Emsley and worn by Miles Davis – https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2014.97.4?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Djacket%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch

Time…

Time is a fascinating subject. A relative term that confines existence.  When looking through the stories from the collection, I was immediately drawn to the stark contrast of intricate timepieces on a simple dark background, with the title “A Moment Captured in Time.”

A Moment Captured in Time

The story that followed the click to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the two watches turned immediately to a haunting reminder that time does not start or stop for any human.

The watches belonged to the NAACP’s field secretary for Florida in 1951, Harry Tyson Moore, and his wife, Harriette.  Although both watches symbolize a very important moment in both of their lives, the solemnity attached to Mr. Moore’s watch imposed a story that deserves to be shared.

Following the link to the story, the first sentence is, “On Christmas Day, 1951, the NAACP’s field secretary for Florida Harry Tyson Moore, and his wife, Harriette, were murdered” (NMAAHC, 2017).

Harry T Moore Pocket Watch“You would never have known, by looking at it, that it had survived a bomb blast” (Ibid).  A bomb blast that immediately killed Harry Moore and eventually killed Harriette Moore.  Time survived, Mr. and Mrs. Moore did not.

This pocket watch is not the only object left to tell to the story of Civil Rights activist Harry Moore, but it is one of the more personal and humanizing reminders of the day to day life Moore experienced.

Donated by his youngest daughter, Juanita Evangeline Moore, who survived the Christmas Day bomb blast, this object is part of the Moore Collection at NMAAHC, and is currently on display in the Defining Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876-1968.  The watch is both a physical and emotional connection to “a man who died half a century ago. It is a way to reach through time and experience this man’s courage and the violence perpetrated against him for that courage” (Ibid).

I have always been fascinated by the intricate mechanics that go into even the simplest and plainest looking watches, and even more so fascinated by the concept of time.  Watches are objects that humans plan and live their lives according to.  They are physical representations of the fleeting nature of life.  They embody an innate desire for structure and the ability to change. All in one object that could fit in your pocket.  For Harry Moore’s watch, the watch contains a never-ending story of courage that forcefully and brazenly ended too soon. Initially being drawn to the physical appearance, the object solidified its impact through the tragic story of its owner.

(2013, October 09). We Plants Are Happy Plants – Apollo. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S9q-phYxmI

NMAAHC (2017, February 16). A Moment Captured in Time. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/collection/moment-captured-time