Thursday, May 28, 2009

Food for Thought: Feedback on Highlander

I’ve been meaning to post this for months, but a hectic schedule (and many other posts!) stood in the way. No more! To recap, I’ll begin with a reminder of our exhibit from last fall...

In the fall of 2008, the Russell Library hosted an exhibit from the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN – Weaving the Threads of Justice: Highlander Center, 1932-2007. The core text panels of the exhibit were provided, but the Russell Library supplemented these with photographs, artifacts, and additional text panels. Weaving tells the story of the Highlander Folk School -- a center for activists and grassroots organization in the Deep South. Highlander played a significant role in labor organizing during the 1930s and 40s and later served as an interracial training center and meeting place for leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Today, Highlander continues to be a central crossroads for community development and grassroots political action on issues such as environmental degradation and human rights in Appalachia and the South.

In thinking about how to help visitors connect to the exhibit, we developed a low-tech feedback zone -- a place where visitors were invited to respond to questions touching on the major themes presented. Additionally, we issued a small challenge - asking visitors to make their own protest signs!

Questions Posed:
  • Who is making (or has made) the south a better place?
  • How have you been involved in working for justice in your community?
  • What does it mean to be an activist?
  • What are the key ingredients for achieving a prosperous community for all citizens?
Happily, there were a good many responses – sometimes a bit off-track from the questions asked, but revealing nonetheless. Encouraged by the responses received, we have decided to make the feedback zone a recurring feature in our exhibit space – adapting it to new exhibits and programs, and modifying the structure to make it more inviting to visitors. Take a look below to see comments made in the Highlander exhibit.

Do you think this is a good way to make exhibits more engaging? Do we learn more when there is action? If you were passing by, what kinds of questions would compel you to post your own comment? Let us know what you think - and be sure to check out the feedback zone in our upcoming exhibit, History Lives (coming soon!).

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