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  • 1.  Period Pieces to Enrich Exhibits

    Posted 03-26-2019 02:34 PM
    Here at the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame we have a Museum Preview Gallery with permanent and rotating exhibits.  Obviously we are a sports-focused entity so our exhibits feature authentic Philadelphia sports-focused artifacts.  However, depending on the exhibit we may also enrich it with non-sports period pieces.  

    As an example, for an exhibit dedicated to the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles Championship team might include era-authentic items such as a radio, television, Look/Life magazines and the like. We deliberately do not present them as "Eagles" authentic items and consciously do not include them in our artifact descriptions/narratives.

    So, we would like to know opinions/feedback in a couple of areas:

    1-How do you handle items like this in your exhibits? (if at all)
    2-How do you store/catalog period pieces?
    3-How/where do you source/acquire period pieces?

    Thanks in advance for any and all insight!

    Kind regards, Ken

    Ken Avallon
    Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame
    Philadelphia PA

  • 2.  RE: Period Pieces to Enrich Exhibits

    Posted 03-27-2019 10:31 AM

    Hi Ken:

    Good question.  In my opinion there are two kinds of things people see in museum exhibits of the kind you describe.  I divide content as either serving the role of proof or prop.  Proof comprises artifacts, art, or scientific specimens that are evidence of the subject of the exhibit and the museum generally.  Props are filler used to amplify or enhance the appearance of a display, much as things do on a stage set.  Historic house museums for which the furnishings are not original are often awash with props.  Simplistically, a room can be a make-believe curatorial tableaux designed to convey whatever sense of time and place the entity seeks to show.  Initially differentiating between prop and proof can most readily unfold, in my mind, when something is acquired by a museum.  You have noted that you collect authentic items that provide direct evidence of Philadelphia's sports history.  The sort of radio or television you mention would fall outside this scope, unless, of course, it had been owned by a Philadelphia sports figure and used there.  Clearly you already divide what you own between things of historic import and things that are temporary exhibit content.  Given your existing approach to collections I would avoid assigning props the sort of customary accession number you presumably give relevant authentic objects.  You could certainly give an inventory identity but others, especially registrars and collection managers, will be able to give more knowledgeable practical advice.    As for where you find these props; flea markets, antiques shops, rummage sales and second-hand stores might be good starting places.  I might avoid giving them your best storage but that depends on your museum's facility circumstances.   I should add that sometimes an object that has been acquired as proof of something is used as a prop in an exhibition and vice versa but these applications do not deter from how they are treated upon arrival at the museum.



    Steven Miller
    Doylestown, PA

    Steven Miller
    Doylestown, PA

    Executive Director Retired
    Boscobel Restoration, Inc.

  • 3.  RE: Period Pieces to Enrich Exhibits

    Posted 03-28-2019 09:39 AM

    Hi Ken,

    I agree with Steven's response and would also suggest you look at eBay.

    We often reach out to our colleagues and alumni/friends to seek out loans of items, which gives us an opportunity to connect with them and strengthen our relationship. They are always delighted to be involved and often become the biggest supporters of our exhibits.

    Linda Jacobson
    North Carolina Collection Gallery
    Chapel Hill NC