Challenges of Working on the Brome Howard Inn’s Exhibit

Steven Gentry is an intern at Historic St. Mary’s City from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He has been working this summer to begin planning exhibit panels for the inside of the Brome-Howard Inn, which was originally St. Mary’s Manor, home to Dr. John Mackall Brome. His work is part of the larger effort at HSMC to interpret the 19th century experience at St. Mary’s City.  He will be sharing his thoughts and process as these panels are put together here on the blog!

Hello again, readers of “All of Us Would Walk Together”!

Our last blog post dealt a lot with what inspired this project, what I have been doing for the past five weeks, and who I’ve been working with. Today’s blog post will deal more with the kinds of challenges and issues that have developed during my internship here at Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC)!

When thinking about where I would put text panels and object cases, a lack of space has definitely presented itself as an issue. For the most part, this problem has not been too difficult to deal with: the entrance hallway where the exhibit on the Brome-Howard Inn’s history will be located, as well as most of the Inn’s bedrooms, have enough space for text panels and cases, though I’m loathe to move anything in each of the rooms (everything seems way too appropriately placed)! The Ark and Dove Suite, however, has been the most difficult room I’ve encountered thus far, mainly because it lacks a lot of flat wall space that one really needs for text panels and pictures. Take a look at the following pictures, both from the Brome-Howard Inn’s main website:

In both images you can see steeply slanted walls; what you don’t get from both pictures is that a large part of this suite has similar walls. I therefore had a difficult time figuring out where I could put text panels and pictures, both of which really need to be placed on flat surfaces.

But a lack of space is not the only challenge I’ve faced: writing concise and informative text panels, has also been quite a challenge. Researching for the Brome-Howard Inn exhibit has involved looking through more than a dozen books, at least many folders from the Historic St. Mary’s Research building, and spending more hours than I want to count reading sources located on the internet. If I could write however much I wanted, then there would be no problem; but most people, myself included, get quite bored and uninterested in reading text panels more than 200 to 250 words in length. So all of that research gets condensed into about six text panels, a total of about 1200 to 1500 words in all. What am I going to talk about, what can get tossed aside, and why: these are questions I’ve had to ask myself every day when working on writing the scripts for these text panels. Of course I haven’t been alone: Henry Miller, Silas Hurry, Regina Faden (the director of Historic St. Mary’s City), and Terry Brock have all contributed to editing and improving my text panels for content and length!

I guess one of the final major challenges I faced when working on this exhibit was working with additional forms of media, such as film. Now this is exciting stuff: Historic St. Mary’s City owns footage of the Brome-Howard Inn moving to its home, thanks to Don Winter! But viewing it is only the beginning; other steps include creating a short film of the Brome-Howard Inn’s move and researching how we might affordably present the film to the public. These are aspects of the project has been more difficult than I had initially thought, but going to be worth it in the end.

Of course, there are many other challenges I’ve had to face during the course of this project including questions of finances, multiple personalities with somewhat different agendas and feelings, etc. The list goes on, but it hasn’t been anything too difficult to manage or overcome!

Well, I think that’s it for me today. Before I go, I think I’ll leave you all with a few questions to ponder about:

-“What other issues or challenges would you face if you were designing an exhibit?”

-“Do you think challenges faced during exhibit construction actually make for a better exhibit overall? Why or why not?


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