December 14, 2017

Montana’s Museum and the Great War: A Story of an Exhibition, Part Two of Two

by Maggie Ordon, Curator of History

This post is the second part of two that goes behind-the-scenes of the Museum’s newest exhibition. Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War opens with a free reception on Thursday, December 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. The reception will have refreshments inspired by historic recipes, hands-on activities for all ages, and WWI-era music from the Continental Divide Tuba Society.

In the last post, we shared a little about the process of moving from abstract ideas and collections of stuff to an exhibit idea with text, stories, and interactives. The final stages bring all these items together.

Todd Saarinen, exhibit prepator, building an interactive device. Photo by author.

Roberta Jones-Wallace, exhibit designer,
trimming posters for display.
Photo by author.
Before and throughout the installation, the team produced text panels, labels, photographs, and other signs, and built cases and other components for the exhibit. Every phogotraph, diagram, poster, text panel, or identification label in the exhibition needed to be researched, written, designed, proofed, and finally printed and matted. For some exhibition components, such as the interactive wall for the “Follow a Montanan” experience, that included several production stages—from designing and building an interactive wall panel that features 18 Montanans impacted by the war to gluing and sealing panels on it. While we try to do as much of this work before installation begins, there’s always a few changes and last minute tweaks to make sure we have things just right.
Amanda Street Trum, curator of collections,
prepping an interactive. Photo by author.












Vic Reiman, exhibit technician, painting walls in the gallery.
Photo by author.




Before the museum team can begin installing the new exhibit, we had to take down the existing one. Museum staff unloaded cases and returned objects to our processing room, where staff check to make sure they are in still good shape. Staff then return the objects to their home in storage, where they rest until we pull them for researchers, tours, or another exhibit. Once the artifacts are safely removed from the gallery, staff started tearing down walls. They built and painted new walls, creating new spaces and pathways in the now transformed gallery.
Todd Saarinen, exhibit prepator, building back wall for interactive trench.
Photo by author.
Roberta Jones-Wallace, exhibit designer,
working on custom figurines
Photo by author.
Roberta Jones-Wallace, exhibit designer,
working on custom figurines
Photo by author.

Roberta Jones Wallace, exhibit designer, providing
artistic direction to Karen Rouns, museum
administrative assistant. Photo by author.
Each exhibit requires its own look and feel to bring the stories to life. For Times of Trouble, Times of Change, we juxtaposed stories of hope and pride with stories of fear and sorrow. We used a number of devices—from color, photographs, artifacts, and reproduction items to capture those feelings. For example, we hung bunting over a large photograph of a patriotic parade. Exhibit prepator Todd Saarinen built a trench scene to show a Montana soldier with his gear, while photos of no man’s land loom overhead. Exhibit designer Roberta Jones-Wallace designed, carved, and painted three figures that mark the “times of trouble and times of change” that the exhibition explores.
Roberta Jones-Wallace, exhibit designer, and Todd Saarinen,
exhibit prepator, installing custom-built trench.
Photo by author.



Roberta Jones-Wallace, exhibit designer, and Todd Saarinen,
exhibit prepartor, mounting case to wall.
Photo by author.
Part of the exhibition planning process is making sure artifacts are appropriately displayed. Museum staff assess each artifact and determine the best mount—both to ensure the safety of the object and to showcase the artifact for visitors to enjoy. The custom slant board being hung in the above photograph will support a delicate Hutterite apron. Karen Rouns secured the apron to a padded board with as few stitches as were needed. To display a shaving kit, Roberta Jones-Wallace carefully secured the kit’s flaps with strips of clear polyester film (e.g. Mylar®). Materials used in mounts, such as transparent polyester film, linen fabric, and polyethylene foam, are archivally safe. This means they are nonabrasive, physically durable, and chemically stable (i.e. they do not release anything that could harm artifacts).
Karen Rouns, museum administrative assistant, attaching a
Hutterite apron to a slant board. Photo by author.


Shaving kit mounted and ready to shine. Item on loan from the Hayes and Lia Otoupalik collection.
Photo by author.
Over the past year we’ve enjoyed planning the exhibition, and over the past three weeks, installaing it. We look forward to seeing you at the reception celebrating the exhibition opening on Thursday, December 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. or whenever you are able to stop in and visit.

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