Students from Southeast Missouri State University turned their attention to a new part of the Ste. Genevieve Museum in their recent annual visit to the city as part of the university’s Historic Preservation Program Field School.
This year, the students began working with documents and other items on the wall-mounted flip display.
“We developed what we think is a fairly inexpensive backing for those charts,” Professor Steven Hoffman, who supervises the project, said. “We removed some original 1867 newspapers that were pinned up there and put them in an archival box with archival tissues so they will be maintained in really good shape. We took images of them and were able to print out several so you can still see the information but the originals will be safe.”
Hoffman hopes to utilize a large global scanner to reproduce those newspaper pages in one large piece. This year, the students photographed the newspapers, and they worked with the university’s special collections and archives department to create reproductions.
“It was amazing what they were able to do,” Hoffman said.
Other work with the flip display included reorganizing the portion of the display on artist Suzanne Moll and miniaturist Lewis Pruneau. Hoffman said the new interpretive panel for Pruneau ties in with the Hindenburg shadowbox he built which is on display at the museum.
“It seemed appropriate to explain to visitors why that was there and how remarkable he is,” Hoffman said.
With about 40 panels, there is plenty more to be done in that area of the museum.
“I think that was kind of a significant accomplishment, and hopefully next year we’ll be able to do a lot more with that,” Hoffman said. “I think that will be the direction we’ll move in.”
The students also worked on updated cases that had been worked on in previous years when the Field School program visited. Hoffman called it “stepping it up a level.”
“For the firearms case, for example, the team this year redid the label copy that had been on card stock and put it on a foam core,” Hoffman said. “It gives the exhibit a more textured dimension. They also moved some things around to make the interpretation a little bit stronger.”
Similar improvements were made with a women’s jewelry case, a Plank Road exhibit and an architecture case. Another team corrected labels that had misspellings and created labels for exhibits the Field School hadn’t addressed yet.
Hoffman said the museum’s interpretive focus is challenged by a lack of storage that results in so many artifacts being out on display all the time. He said that lack of storage is something that might need to be addressed before the museum attempts to move forward with any long-term multimedia initiative.
“My No. 1 recommendation would be to address the storage concern first,” he said. “Right now, the interpretive focus is strained because so many of the artifacts need to be on exhibit because there is nowhere to store them. [With more storage], you could temporarily take some artifacts off and that would give you more space to do a more focused interpretation that would be more effective.
“[A technology upgrade] certainly needs to be on their list of ‘How are they going to be relevant in 20 years?’ But you have to start with where you are and the resources you have.”
Hoffman is aware of the museum’s resources, which he thinks brings a healthy dose of real-world constraints for his students. And he lauds the work done so far to create and keep the museum.
“They have some really incredible artifacts,” Hoffman said. “It really is a gem of a place. They’ve done a great job recording, collecting and preserving artifacts of Ste. Genevieve’s history, and we’re just pleased to be able to help them, even if it’s just in a small way.
“It helps the museum and it certainly is a very valuable learning experience for our students because they get to work in an environment that has real constraints. It’s not a classroom, it’s a real museum, and they have real limitations on what they can do.”