Jump to content

How Do you Display Items Without a Personal History?


BEAST
 Share

Recommended Posts

When I set-up a display for an organization, the uniforms that I exhibit are ID'd to Indiana vets and I can provide the history of the service of the individual. However, with our more recent wars, it is harder to track down the name of an individual, let alone their service. For example, a USMC DCU with only the last name. How would you describe it so the viewer would feel some connection to it?

 

All I can think of is something along the lines of "USMC desert combat uniform worn from 20XX-20XX. During this period, the Marines were engaged in the fighting at XXXXXXX, YYYYY and ZZZZZZ. During the Global War on Terror, more than XXX Marines from Indiana made the ultimate sacrifice." Maybe include a photo of the same pattern uniform being worn.

 

That's not too bad, but is there more information that I should include or a better way to present the uniform?

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I did displays I had both identified and unidentified.I always tried to have something or some item from each war no matter how small the item was and also something if possible from all branches of the military.

 

I basically did the same on unnamed items.A simple description of the type,period of the item and who/what branch wore it.

 

I also found out most people dont take the time to read a lot of the information on a identified uniform or gear I laid out.Even weapons.It didnt matter to anyone that a M1 Garand had a 63 dated barrel in it.No one asked about "mussle and throat erosion".Those that carried or trained and used them always said......

 

"Theres my rifle,I had one exactly like that"

 

Course when I did a lot of displays there wasnt the crazy or obcession to have everything named or identified to a specific person.There wasnt the internet sources to hunt down the information.Many items I knew where the item(s) came from or who it belonged to other times I had bought it blindly as I liked it or wanted an example in my collection.Being named didnt matter and in most cases still dont to me.

 

I think you will do great with your display and its all about having fun and remebering those who served named or anonymous.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree, a shorter, more succinct label is the way to go. I've used non-identified items to populate a display and fill up space. For ID'd items, my labels are still pretty short. Most people (that aren't collectors like us) don't take time to read a long label anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Load it up with combat gear to show how Marines in the GWOT looked like. Explain every piece of equipment. I think you will see that it would draw in more attention.

 

From my observation and experience when showing my non-military-buff friends my war room. Various of DCUs with actual veteran history behind them just never caught their attention. What always catch their attention is my full loaded mannequins with combat gear on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometimes less is more. I agree with Doyler, a lot of people just don't spend the time to read stuff. I find that the older generations take their time to read but families don't read much at all. And like Merc 25 stated load it up with gear and there you go.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhat a relevant tangent - but, in the history of museums throughout the world there was actually a very long period of time when it was considered completely unnecessary and trivial to include ANY sort of a label, at all. In the 19th century one finds names of artists, and sometimes a title or even a year, on little plaques at the bottom of period frames,

 

I suppose it was assumed that anyone who was in the presence of genuine artifacts would already have the knowledge to fully understand what they were seeing... whether in art, history or science museums and private collections.

 

At some non-specific point in the 1950s thereabouts began the trend in labeling everything which has led these days to what are called "interactive museums" wherein practically ALL one is "allowed" to see is what amounts to some form of "educational" labelling. There are entire departments of museum staff who do nothing but "didactic" texts.

 

In other words, nowadays it is assumed that the viewer is completely unaware of anything about what they are seeing.

 

As a professional and personal preference, I tend to appreciate more the minimalist labels which give me some basic hints, a place to start my self-education. If I have a detailed question, I ask somebody.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhat a relevant tangent - but, in the history of museums throughout the world there was actually a very long period of time when it was considered completely unnecessary and trivial to include ANY sort of a label, at all. In the 19th century one finds names of artists, and sometimes a title or even a year, on little plaques at the bottom of period frames,

 

I suppose it was assumed that anyone who was in the presence of genuine artifacts would already have the knowledge to fully understand what they were seeing... whether in art, history or science museums and private collections.

 

At some non-specific point in the 1950s thereabouts began the trend in labeling everything which has led these days to what are called "interactive museums" wherein practically ALL one is "allowed" to see is what amounts to some form of "educational" labelling. There are entire departments of museum staff who do nothing but "didactic" texts.

 

In other words, nowadays it is assumed that the viewer is completely unaware of anything about what they are seeing.

 

As a professional and personal preference, I tend to appreciate more the minimalist labels which give me some basic hints, a place to start my self-education. If I have a detailed question, I ask somebody.

 

I personally like labels/descriptions on some artifacts, especially if there is something historical about an item that isn't immediately obvious. For instance, going to an aviation museum and reading about the history of a particular aircraft in their collection. Many museums don't have a huge staff available for asking questions, so having some basic information on a plaque/label is handy. What would be the point of a museum if everyone already knew the full history of items in the museum? Sounds like a museum that wouldn't be worth visiting to me...

 

Having said that, it is VERY easy to get carried away with the amount of information that accompanies an item in an display. If you can't describe it in 50 words or less, most people are not going to read the entire description anyway.

 

For un-named items with no firm ID, all that is needed is the approximate era it was used, what conflicts it may have been used in, etc. Possibly point out anything unique about that particular item.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

In other words, nowadays it is assumed that the viewer is completely unaware of anything about what they are seeing.
There's a lot of truth in that. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to stress to rookies the importance of memorizing and knowing certain things only to hear, "Nah, I'll just Google it." Readily available internet is replacing actual knowledge in some cases.
To the point at hand, I am reminded of my visit to the Eisenhower museum in 2014. Not only was I disappointed to not see one of Ike's uniforms, but some of the others on display were unidentified. I was excited to see an enlisted uniform on display (thinking it belonged to one of his aides or staff) only to read "WW2 Army uniform" on the label.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly concur on all points above...

 

Taking this a tad deeper, there WAS a period of time, ca. 1965-95 (sorta kinda), when museums did have a format template for labels - one which almost everybody seemed to agree with - until it was somehow decided that it was imperative and of national educational significance for everybody to be educated.

 

The format was:

 

Title (Substitute kind of artifact?)

Year (If known or even circa)

Name of Maker (Or manufacturer or something)

Size (Height precedes Width precedes Depth)

Medium (What is it made of)

Accession number (collector's Inventory if not actual accession, or some other numerical/alphabetic ID)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you have been given some great advice here. I can attest to the fact that most people are drawn to displays that are fully decked out in gear, uniform, and helmet. If possible use either a torso mannequin or a full mannequin. The mannequin really makes the display "pop" as opposed to having the items resting on a table or hung up on the wall.

 

Whenever I do displays, I use an 8 1/2"x11" paper with some typed out text briefly explaining what the audience is seeing. Basically, a shortened version of what Bluehawk mentioned above. I use plastic photo stands that you can get at Walmart so the paper can stand in front of the display and is easily readable. I also make sure the print is large enough for people who may have vision problems.

 

One thing I also do is to make sure I stay with my display in case anyone has questions. Most people don't, but some do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well said Nkomo.

 

Think about this:

 

When it comes to public display, it is not about what you want to display. It is about what people want to see.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! Thanks for the replies, I didn't think this thread would get this much traffic. I really appreciate the input.

 

I absolutely agree with the idea that less is more. Currently, when I set up my display, I have 8 1/2" x 11" sheets with large print that introduce the era and Indiana's participation. Then I have smaller sheets for each of the uniforms giving a two-three sentence explanation about the vet who wore it. Using the ID'd uniforms (or other items) that shows where in Indiana the veteran is from, I think helps to bring the history closer to the viewer. To get a better idea of how I write up my descriptions, please go to my website http://indianavets.wixsite.com/indiana-at-war.

 

Maybe I should revise my original question. Is it more important to have ID'd uniforms or ''equipt" displays? I've always thought ID'd as that is what I like to see when I go to a museum. I guess I prefer the personal connection. However, some of what I read here shows that I should provide more field gear on the mannequins as the public may find that more interesting. To be clear, I will put field gear on some when it doesn't obscure the uniform beneath. For example, a WWI uniform works well with a cartridge belt , haversack and mask. A ID'd badged DCU in full battle rattle is wasted. Here the non-ID'd uniform is better suited. (As I write this, I see one problem. I don't like to collect non-ID'd items!) It looks like I may have to change.

 

Please continue to provide your thoughts here as I truly appreciate the different views and will try to incorporate them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well said Nkomo.

 

Think about this:

 

When it comes to public display, it is not about what you want to display. It is about what people want to see.

 

"What people want to see" is part of the reason that I started this thread. I know what I like to see and it is easy to get tunnel vision. The focus of the display has always been identified items from Hoosiers. However, there are some things that are hard to identify such as the modern uniforms that I mentioned before. Also, as this thread is bringing out, people like to see that mannequins wearing the gear. Since they're rarely ID'd, I never really worried about displaying the field gear. Now I may change that opinion. Of course, I'll have to find a mannequin that can actually stand up while wearing all of the equipment that was worn.

 

This thread is absolutely giving me ideas about changing up my display.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly concur on all points above...

 

Taking this a tad deeper, there WAS a period of time, ca. 1965-95 (sorta kinda), when museums did have a format template for labels - one which almost everybody seemed to agree with - until it was somehow decided that it was imperative and of national educational significance for everybody to be educated.

 

The format was:

 

Title (Substitute kind of artifact?)

Year (If known or even circa)

Name of Maker (Or manufacturer or something)

Size (Height precedes Width precedes Depth)

Medium (What is it made of)

Accession number (collector's Inventory if not actual accession, or some other numerical/alphabetic ID)

 

Bluehawk, I remember seeing these labels especially in art museums. You can still find them in the smaller, older museums. It looked like they just took their inventory description and posted it with the work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you have been given some great advice here. I can attest to the fact that most people are drawn to displays that are fully decked out in gear, uniform, and helmet. If possible use either a torso mannequin or a full mannequin. The mannequin really makes the display "pop" as opposed to having the items resting on a table or hung up on the wall.

 

Whenever I do displays, I use an 8 1/2"x11" paper with some typed out text briefly explaining what the audience is seeing. Basically, a shortened version of what Bluehawk mentioned above. I use plastic photo stands that you can get at Walmart so the paper can stand in front of the display and is easily readable. I also make sure the print is large enough for people who may have vision problems.

 

One thing I also do is to make sure I stay with my display in case anyone has questions. Most people don't, but some do.

 

Arch, I like those plastic stands too. I wish I could find them in a landscape orientation as opposed to portrait though. Also I agree with you about remaining with your display. Not only for security, but also for the occasional question. I've go tot meet some very interesting people this way, including a couple of women whose husbands were killed during WWII. They were happy to see that their husbands'service was represented in my display.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I did displays I had both identified and unidentified.I always tried to have something or some item from each war no matter how small the item was and also something if possible from all branches of the military.

 

I basically did the same on unnamed items.A simple description of the type,period of the item and who/what branch wore it.

 

I also found out most people dont take the time to read a lot of the information on a identified uniform or gear I laid out.Even weapons.It didnt matter to anyone that a M1 Garand had a 63 dated barrel in it.No one asked about "mussle and throat erosion".Those that carried or trained and used them always said......

 

"Theres my rifle,I had one exactly like that"

 

Course when I did a lot of displays there wasnt the crazy or obcession to have everything named or identified to a specific person.There wasnt the internet sources to hunt down the information.Many items I knew where the item(s) came from or who it belonged to other times I had bought it blindly as I liked it or wanted an example in my collection.Being named didnt matter and in most cases still dont to me.

 

I think you will do great with your display and its all about having fun and remebering those who served named or anonymous.

Doyler, you're right. The bottom line is about having fun and remembering those who served!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great suggestions all around! When displaying ID'd uniforms, I create a label that has a scanned photo of the vet on the left and the bio on the right, like so:

post-32676-0-30968500-1482076580.png

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Bluehawk, I remember seeing these labels especially in art museums. You can still find them in the smaller, older museums. It looked like they just took their inventory description and posted it with the work.

Pretty much true, Beast...

 

It was, actually, a simple consistent way to cope with bazillions of different types of artifacts of different sizes, titles, dates and media. What happened since then is that a lot more "didactic" text is called for, practically to the point of total confusion in a "Google" world, where any 5th grader could write a museum object label and make it look as accurate as one written by a PhD in Art (or any other) History.

 

From a curator's perspective, just based on gallery observations alone, what we are seeing these days is, in many many cases, visitors spending a LOT more time reading the labels than actually looking at artifacts and gaining "information" from the objects themselves.

 

Naturally, professional museum practices need not apply to private conduct - but it is useful to see where these disciplines overlap.

 

Interpretation (aka labelling, classes, docents, field trips and so on) is only one of FOUR purposes museums have. The other three are:

Exhibition

Preservation

Acqusition

 

The element which is suffering more than any other, as a consequence of so much excessive emphasis on Interpretation, is (not surprisingly) Preservation. < It is the latter focus which drew me into and keeps me so committed to museums.

 

Furthermore, Preservation per se, is among the foremost attributes of USMF in perpetuity. What this community of collectors is accomplishing, in collaboration with several other groups, is indispensable to militaria from the level of the object itself all the way up to correct revelation of American contributions to world history.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I like to use actual historical combat / newsreel footage of the gear as it was used displayed with the items to show how it would have been used, or how it looked on the soldiers in the field.

 

since I dont have any mannequin displays, I show old photos or reference books with the displays

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...

Here’s a few displays I’ve made with some of my named and attributed items. DETOLF cases from IKEA work great along with basket ball display boxes. Rikers with photo mats and black felt work really nice as well.

-Jimmy

bb6046b9c0c91bbbdbf55c61dd8b3a66.jpg
5bc6d8a0e1bf6533c4d7942a1432af29.jpg
d6076c45766ddfa4cad858737a58e143.jpg
41cb7d54208d034eafbdd916b731d700.jpg
f416306c8c57432ffb243631a4f810a1.jpg
f3d579532ea466fef70c293b3c3495cc.jpg
faf81d966b78892864708629a0218bf0.jpg


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oops. I misread the thread. All of my previous posted items are attributed.

For my unattributed items, I sort of put them all together like this. I have a few displays in detolf cases like this.

11bb1d3b5e7e5193f2477874835083b8.jpg


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...
srossio

I follow the “three rule” with my labels.  
1) Top line (largest font), descriptive title.  This is for those that simply want to know what the item is and no more.

2) Middle (medium font), one detailed sentence.  This is for people who aren’t necessarily readers but want to know more than the title offers.

3) Bottom (small font), several sentences, a paragraph or sometimes two, giving very detailed information.  This is for those people who are really interested in the item and want to soak up everything.

I have used this method for years and it works great!

 

Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...