by Christina Carlson-
This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn about public history first hand when I took part in creating the Ubjects III exhibit at the Schmidt Art Center. The Ubjects III exhibit was part of a four year project known as CUSP that was undertaken by SIUE, Southwestern Illinois College, and University of Missouri-St. Louis. CUSP stands for Conjunctions, Ubjects (a made up word meaning unique objects), Stories, and People. The main purpose of the CUSP project is to understand the history of southwestern Illinois through individual participants from local communities.
Ubjects III began when people from Lebanon, Highland, Fairmont City, and Mascoutah answered the question, “What object in your home best defines your generation?” Participants from these communities met with students and gave short interviews to explain why their particular objects defined their generations. Many of the participants then lent their objects to create a community history exhibit at the Schmidt Art Center. During the summer, I created an exhibit using these objects and the stories behind them.
The project was both incredibly fun and incredibly enlightening for me. I realized how important it is to involve a community with a museum exhibit about their local area. Everyone has a different view of their community’s past and their own place in it. By combining so many of these views into something based on personal stories, the Ubjects III exhibit was able to present pieces of a community’s past which might not have been considered in a traditional exhibition setting. The exhibit was truly directed by those in the community who participated.
Should people in a community be involved in the creation of museums or their exhibits? Do you think there are stories or histories which are commonly ignored in traditional museums?