Browse Exhibits (54 total)

Many maps, many uses

Maps come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. The first map was drawn a long time ago – over a thousand years! Today, maps are made by people called cartographers, and are used for many purposes. They are used to plot places and landscapes that humans cannot reach, they aid in navigation and surveying, they help with planning, and are useful while traveling. Maps are also sometimes kept as mementos or keepsakes – something their creators probably weren’t expecting!


Engaging the World

Whether it’s through the books we read, postcards we receive, or the planes we take, we all travel to distant places.  This exhibition will examine the various materials that we use to understand foreign places and explore the limitations of travel. 

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American Exceptionalism: Origins and Contemporary Identity

American exceptionalists emphasize America’s uniqueness among nations. Where does this idea come from? Where will it take us?

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Museums Online: An Analysis of Virtual Exhibits

Museums began exploring the potential of the internet for public outreach in the mid 1990's. Online exhibit components and stand-alone exhibits are now common, and not only among the major institutions. Virtual exhibits are possible even for small institutions and organizations without facilities for permanent traditional exhibits, but how effective are they? Online exhibits play an important role in public outreach, especially for national or international institutions. However, when used improperly, they can damage reputations rather than help bolster them. 

Senses Exploration!

Look at this!  Touch this!  Did you hear that?  What smells?  That tastes good!


We all have five main sensory organs- our eyes, skin, ears, nose, and tongue- that depend on our working nervous system.  When special nerve cells called receptors are stimulated, messages are sent to the brain to tell you what you are seeing, touching, hearing, smelling or tasting.  To explore your senses and find out more click on the one of the following senses:


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Advertising Awareness: The Methods and Functions of Advertising

Cafe Du Monde tin   Hershey cow souvenir    Irene Dunne holding Happy Birthday Ike cake  Yoshi Figurine  Longwood University FrisbeeBowling pin  

America was founded on advertising. In the 17th century posters and handbills flooded the slums of Europe promoting the endless bounty of the American Colonies. Hapless immigrants found the reality of the colonies quite different. America continues selling dreams to an audience still eager to believe. But what are the mechanics behind the siren song of advertisers? While most of us are savvy about the ulterior motives of advertisers, the methods and functions of advertising remain mysterious. An anonymous person wrote, "he who has a product to sell and goes and whispers in a well, is not so apt to get the dollars, as the person who climbs the tree an hollers." While getting the message out remains the important, a successful campaign requires more than climbing a tree and screaming at the top of your lungs.

Uncovering Kitsch: The Meaning Behind Novelty

What do Rosie the Riveter, the Declaration of Independence, and the American flag all have in common?  These are all examples of iconic national and political symbols that many Americans find meaningful.  Patriotic symbols frequently elicit strong emotional responses, like pride and nostalgia.  Others experience frustration or even anger at the country’s unfulfilled potential.  Think beyond your own gut reactions.  How is a particular symbol represented in an advertisement or ordinary object?  What groups employ these symbols and for what purposes? 

Manufacturers incorporate powerful symbols from U.S. history, such as the peace sign and raised fist, in cheap, mass-produced goods to appeal to the public’s love for kitsch.  The Oxford World Dictionary defines “kitsch” as “art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality.” 

            Uncovering Kitsch: The Meaning Behind Novelty explores the relationship between significant political and national symbols of the United States and the popular expression of these images through kitsch objects.  Consider the objects in the following exhibit.  How are these symbols represented through kitsch objects?   How does kitsch trivialize symbolic meaning?  How does it elevate symbolic meaning?


American Wedding Traditions and Superstitions

Wedding Invitation

Have you ever been to a wedding and wondered why the bride's dress is white?  Or, why do all the bridesmaids dress alike?  From the moment someone becomes engaged until after they arrive back from their honeymoon there are thousands of years of tradition and superstitions that many couples chose to participate in for this special time in their lives.


So how exactly did the wedding ceremony originate?  In ancient times during tribal combat brides would be captured as prizes of war and married against their will.  In some cultures marriage was a business transaction between two families called a “betrothal” which was a property transaction.  Some say men and women embraced in a sacred space or clasped hands while others believe people would literally tie a knot with reeds, ribbon, or cord between themselves around the waist, hence the term “tying the knot”. 


While marriage is no longer a business transaction between two families many of the traditions and superstitions are still practiced today.  Follow along this exhibit to discover more about American wedding traditions and superstitions!  


Members Only: The Formation of Identity Through Membership

Everyone is a member of at least one social group, whether they realize it or not.  Some people voluntarily join groups such as sports teams, clubs, and political parties in order to establish their identity in society.  But what about the groups they did not choose to join?  Everyone is born into a family, a gender, and a nationality that they have no control over.  Both groups, whether voluntary or involuntary, are made of a collection of people that have something in common and offer social acceptance. 

Each stage of your life offers different opportunities for group memberships.  Think back to your childhood…how have your family’s values shaped your identity?  As a teenager did you join a special group that made you feel like you belonged?  What kind of impact did going to college have on your identity?  Think of the groups you are a member of now.  What do they tell the outside world about you? 

By looking at the objects a person owns, we can see the different groups they are a member of and how those groups have shaped their identity.  Click "Members Only" below to see some examples!    

Label Me

Can you describe yourself in only one word? In two?

We use LABELS to describe and identify the people and things we encounter, but one label never tells the complete story. People and objects alike fit many different labels.

You may label yourself as an athlete, a reader, or an ice cream enthusiast, but there is always more than one way to describe yourself.  You can be all of these things and more at the same time.

This exhibit explores some of the different ways we label objects and ourselves. 

Bringing Paper to Life


Have you ever considered the impact made by simple things on your life? Paper is something that most people see every day, but take for granted.

Paper has myriad of uses that affect our lives. Come in, enjoy this exhibit, and see how paper informs, entertains, helps achievement, makes money, provides sustenance, aids religion, helps you find where you want to go and where you do not, contributes to products that you use daily, and brings access to many things you might not otherwise have.

This is life. Don’t miss any of it!

"Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus:" How Toys Construct Genders that are Worlds Apart.

When you are buying a toy for a child, how much does their gender play a role in the gift choice that you make? Ideas about gender surround us every day, and can even be found in the most unsuspecting places - such as toys. Indeed, these ideas are so prevalent that most children demonstrate an understanding about gender differentiation by the time they are 18-24 months old. At this age, children begin desiring toys that are considered to be appropriate for their respective gender. 


The items examined in this exhibit are examples of how gender roles are constructed early in life through a child's use of particular toys. Each item features a link to a corresponding advertisement that shows how the item is marketed towards boys or girls and how the item serves as a means for socializing children and defining appropriate gender roles.


How Many Stories Can You Tell About An Object?


Objects convey information about the geological past and also convey rich stories about past human cultures.  It is the job of scientists, historian, and museum professionals to make decisions concerning what type of story they want to tell.  These decisions are influenced by the scholar’s contextual values.  Contextual values consist of background knowledge, social preferences, or preferred narratives of the viewer.  Scholars make choices about stories they wish to tell using objects.  In this exhibit, the visitor gets to decide which story, or label, best suits an object.  By selecting narratives the exhibit will reveal the difficult choices that scholars make in telling a story. The visitor might be surprised by the types of narratives they prefer:  whether they be Marxist, Freudian, Anthropological, or narratives based in the writings of Durkheim.

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Teens, Wake Up to Politics!

You're always hearing about politics from your parents, teachers, TV, and the Internet. Sometimes the subject seems boring--and even unimportant. Who cares which man becomes president and eats off expensive china in the big white house or which governor's name is on the welcome sign when people come to your state? However, politics is one of the most important subjects in the world--and it affects you personally! Look and find out why.

The Big White House with the China

The Governor Welcomes You...

The American Ideal

" nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

What does America stand for?

The quote above, taken from the American pledge of allegiance, declares that America is a nation based upon the ideals of unity, faith, liberty, and justice. But America is a diverse country full of individuals with differing beliefs and lifestyles. If you were to ask a hundred individuals what they believe the most important ideal of America is, the characteristic that defines our nation, you might get a hundred different answers.

This exhibit will examine several specific groups and individuals in an attempt to understand how each would answer the question: "What does America stand for?" By bringing these differing ideas together we can paint a fuller picture of what America is and what it strives to be.






The adventures of Yoshi and Vault-Boy!: tracing the virtual origins of video-game memorabilia

Most video-game characters are bound within their virtual worlds. Yet, sometimes, they are recreated in the material world as action-figures and other memorabilia. In this virtual exhibition, we will trace the virtual origins of two toy-like figures: a Vault-Boy bobble-head, and a figure of Yoshi, the long-tongued dinosaur.

Shoes We Wear

Everyone wears shoes. Shoes are constructed according to a specific function and purpose. As such, the shoes we wear not only defines what we do but also defines the shoe. A runner for example, wears running shoes. A ballarina wears ballet shoes. This exhibt explores shoe-making and some of the specific processes used in their construction that define the shoe.

"Choose Five Objects" - A Material Culture Assignment and Its Implications for Museums



When asked to select five objects to describe themselves, how and what do students choose?


 "Choose Five Objects" looks at motivations that go into the selection process to better understand how people connect with objects, information that has valuable implications for the museum community.

This exhibit analyses Dr. Allison Marsh's assignment to her Material Culture graduate seminar through data provided by the 2012 class.