Create an Exhibit at Home

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Have you ever wondered what goes into making a Museum exhibit?  Whether you’re a parent who wants to display your kid’s latest masterpiece, or a collector looking to exhibit your passions, here are a few tips to get you started on creating your own displays.

Cape Fear Museum collects artifacts that tell stories about the people, places and events in Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear. Our curator, Heather Yenco, has used her dog Luna as an example – this is a selection of objects that, taken together, give a representation of her life. You can do this at home, too. What objects would you select to represent the people or pets in your life?

Scientists who study shells, fossils and other items from nature collect and record information about each specimen in order to learn more about the natural world. Our exhibit designer, John Timmerman, uses an example from his personal shell collection to explain why it’s so important to keep records on your own finds if you want them to be scientifically useful. Do you have a catalogue of your own collection?

Once you’ve chosen your artifacts, you need to write labels to provide information and context for your exhibit. Our historian, Dr. Jan Davidson, shows you some examples of different labels styles by turning her wall into a family Museum. To see the labels up close, and learn a little more about writing labels, follow this link. What kind of labels would you write to contextualize your exhibit?

Exhibits are more than artifacts and words – you also need to think about the layout and design of your in-home Museum.  Our design coordinator, Simon Lashford, shows you how to make a display box with some simple home materials.

In this second video, our design coordinator, Simon Lashford, gives you some tips on ways you can light and position artifacts in your home-made display box.  He also helps you understand how background color can make an object pop!  How would you design and light your displays?

Are you interested in learning how to properly care for your family archives and heirlooms? The following resources provide advice on preserving your family collections, to help ensure they will be available for future generations to enjoy.

American Institute for Conservation: Resources for the Public
Gaylord Archival: Personal Resources
Library of Congress: Collections Care
National Archives: How to Preserve Family Archives
Northeast Document Conservation Center: Caring for Private and Family Collections

Do you still have questions? Contact Heather Yenco, Curator, at or 910-798-4359.

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382
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