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Category: Traveling Exhibits

Secretary Clough Comes to OEC

Secretary Wayne Clough paid a visit to OEC last week to view the production process of the latest Museum on Main Street exhibit: The Way We Worked.  The exhibit was developed by MoMS and is based on a collection of photographs from the National Archives. The Way We Worked takes a close look at the important role work plays in American lives and how our workforce has changed over time.  Five copies of the exhibit were produced at OEC and began shipping out to small towns across America at the end of August.

Being from a small town himself, the Secretary spoke about how important cultural programing like traveling exhibitions are for rural Americans. He also mentioned how impressed he was with OEC’s handiwork. It was a pleasure to share our work with the Secretary and an exciting way to wrap up the production of another terrific MoMS exhibit. 


Robbie Davis of MoMS assembles TWWW in preparation for the Secretary's visit. 

Secretary Clough viewing TWWW.


Secretary Clough poses for a photo at the entrance of TWWW.


Secretary Clough talking with modelmakers Jon Zastrow and Danny Feilding about the fabrication process of TWWW. 

Journey Stories

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program recently completed the latest in a series of exhibits developed in collaboration with the Federation of State Humanities Councils.  MoMS–a division of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) which serves small town museums and residents of rural America–has added “Journey Stories” to its impressive list of exhibit offerings.  Curated by William Withuhn at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), “Journey Stories” examines the intersection between transportation and American society by providing individual stories which illustrate the critical roles that mobility and travel have played in our country’s history over time.  The MoMS staff worked with the Office of Exhibits Central (OEC) to design and fabricate five copies of the 600 square foot, free-standing exhibit, which began touring in May 2009.  Audio components; objects including clay jugs, courie shells, and hurricane lanterns; cut-out figures; and engaging graphics supplement the compelling text. 

The five copies of the exhibit will travel within the states of Illinois, Mississippi, North Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma during the first year of the tour.

A. Intro final

“Journey Stories” Title Panel


D. Pilgrims final

One Way Trip


J. Ax man final

Pushing the Boundaries


N. Wagon train final

Across the “Great Desert” to the West!



photo credit:

  OEC editor

Journeying with Journey Stories

The process of creating Journey Stories has been a journey in itself. The traveling exhibit, in development since October 2006, will hit the road in 2009 in Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. OEC is producing this exhibition for Museum on Main Street (MoMS), a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Journey Stories focuses on the mobile elements of American society. Regardless of their cultural backgrounds, all Americans have a story to tell of their own personal journeys or of their ancestors. The exhibition tells the story of migrations (both voluntary and forced) into and throughout the United States, the tenacity and creativity of transportation workers, and of development of the methods of transportation that our desire to explore demanded. The exhibit highlights people’s stories about picking up and moving somewhere else and of fun and frolic on the open road. Methods of transportation may have changed from the wagon to the train to the car, but Americans keep on moving.

OEC editor Angela Roberts and OEC designer Tina Lynch have been involved with the exhibit from the very beginning of the project. William Withuhn, curator of Transportation History at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) and curator for this exhibit, is writing the script, while the team from OEC and MoMS works to customize this content-rich exhibit for the needs of cultural organizations in rural communities. Our “journey stories” are told through audio and text quotes, compelling historic photographs and artwork, and reproduction objects and maps.  MoMS staff have been researching and gathering the components, as well as obtaining rights and permissions to use photographs from collections around the country.

Designer Lynch has converted several of the black and white photographs into colored duotones. This change from the original image gives visitors a new way to look at something familiar. Several of the photos used in the design, Lynch obtained using connections through friends of friends, which was a pleasant surprise in the design process. OEC graphics specialist Theresa Keefe works with Lynch to prepare the final high resolution images for printing.  Using Photoshop, she cleans up the images and makes corrections in the final color output.

OEC mountmaker Howard Clemenko is hard at work bracketing objects, and our crating specialist, Harry Adams, has made the necessary calculations to safely ship the entire show within strict shipping parameters.  Other modelmakers are experimenting with methods for encapsulating or replicating different materials, such as barbed wire and tobacco twists.

OEC has a long history with MoMS.  We’ve designed and produced all of their exhibits since 1994, starting with Produce for Victory and its award-winning design. 

Everybody Loves the Muppets

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and OEC have been working on a traveling exhibition about Jim Henson’s life work. We began design consultation in February 2006 and script editing in June 2006. Now that the script and design are finalized, we turn to production of the graphic and text panels, labels, cases, and mounts for the puppets that will be traveling with the show.

In March 2007, Bonnie Erickson (above right with Bert and Ernie), vice president of The Jim Henson Legacy and creator of many well-known Muppets, including Animal and Miss Piggy, flew down from New York to OEC’s collection storage facility to “style” or determine the position of each puppet. OEC designer Tina Lynch, mountmakers Howard Clemenko and Daniel Fielding, modelmaker Tim Smith (above left), and SITES registrar Josie Cole and project director Deborah Macanic worked with Ms. Erickson to convey the “personality” of each puppet within the constraints of the dimensions of the cases, conservation requirements, and safety for the objects during shipping.

Here OEC mountmaker Howard Clemenko (above) sets a small mount that will hold up Rowlf’s ear. During Ms. Erickson’s visit, OEC staff photographed each puppet’s position for reference during the fabrication of the mounts and installation of the puppets in the cases. Each mount is made to support the object without causing any damage to it, while also being virtually invisible to the visitor.

In the Design and Editing offices, we have hung rough color proofs of the graphics and text panels for the show to facilitate final proofreading and approval of colors and layouts before sending the digital files to our Graphics shop for final printing, laminating, and mounting.

Needless to say, having the Muppets and other works by Jim Henson at OEC has been a lot of fun! More photos.

Jim Henson’s Fantastic World begins touring this September at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The following organizations have graciously allowed OEC to show you these behind-the-scenes images of Jim Henson’s work:

For Bert and Ernie:
TM & (c) 2007 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.

For Rowlf and Kermit:
(c) The Muppets Studio, LLC.

For Cantus:
(c) 2007 The Jim Henson Company, All Rights Reserved.

New Harmonies Ships Out

Last Tuesday, staff from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), Museum on Main Street (MoMS), the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and OEC gathered along with other guests to celebrate the completion and shipping of the last of 5 copies of New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music for their tours in Idaho, Mississippi, Illinois, Guam, and Washington.

This has been an extensive project that has touched every aspect and staff member at OEC. Consultation on the project began in November 2004, moving to design and editing in October 2005, and production in July 2006.

The production of New Harmonies has been featured in other entries here and here.

See more photos of the reception and the preview installation of New Harmonies.

top photo: Devra Wexler and Ruth Trevarrow from SITES play with the diddley bow in the Blues kiosk.

bottom photo: Rosemary Regan, OEC editor, and Dan Meijer, SI contractor, get their zydeco groove on.

Bringing the Country to New Harmonies

Work continues on the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibit New Harmonies. The OEC Fabrication shop is currently working on the components for the kiosk featuring country music. There are many design features that make this kiosk visually interesting for visitors, and technically challenging for OEC staff.

Our staff had to get creative in designing and constructing the components due to some pretty strict size and weight constraints, which make the exhibit less costly to ship. Components need to be strong enough to stay together while on display, but easy to assemble and disassemble for rural museums with small staff and tight spaces. Our staff found innovative ways to customize the plain, ready-made Scenario panels used as the framework of the show. This exhibit also included sound interactives that play snippets of the different types of music featured.

SEE MORE PICTURES of OEC Fabrication at work.

photo: Rob Wilcox and Adam Metallo of Fabrication place the roofing frame on top of the Scenario panel to check the fit.

Traveling Exhibit Preview

On October 10, 2006, the Office of Exhibits Central hosted a press preview and staff opening for Native Words, Native Warriors, a joint production of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Featuring fifteen large-scale banners, this show highlights the contributions of Native American soldiers who used their languages to help the United States armed forces in World Wars I and II.

Staff from SITES, NMAI, and OEC who had worked on this exhibition attended the preview along with special guests from the first venues hosting the show and members of the press. Comments from all were positive. Katherine Krile, project director from SITES, said, “We are all so excited to see seven years of research and hard work finalized in such a beautiful and moving tribute.”

OEC designed and edited the exhibition, two copies of which will travel around the U.S. for the next five years. The first venues hosting the exhibition are the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum in Arkansas City, Kansas, and the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

photo: Michael Headley, director of OEC, and Keevin Lewis, community services coordinator at NMAI. Photograph by Robert Alexander, NMAI.