By Stefanie Kohn, Curator
Overseeing the active exhibition schedule of the NCSML inspires our long-time curator as she uses history, art, and power tools to engage and inspire visitors. Read her views of how it all comes together.
As Curator at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, my primary responsibility revolves around exhibitions. The Museum has a permanent exhibition, Faces of Freedom, that requires general care and feeding, including changing out artifacts regularly. The NCSML also has three galleries for changing exhibits, and each of these galleries sees two to four displays each year. The Sleger Immigrant House, new exhibition space in the Skala Bartizal Library, and display cases in the Grand Hall add to our options for bringing to our members and visitors a wide variety of offerings that reveal the art, culture, and history of Czech and Slovak cultures.
The exhibit schedule looks ahead three years, because some exhibitions involve a variety of partners, again making our exhibitions more rich and diversified. Some of the questions we ask to determine what we will present to our visitors include “Does it fit our mission?” “Does it fit in with our five-year strategic plan?” “Do we have the resources to pull it off?” “Will our visitors like it?” We try to balance history and art, and we try to create exhibitions that appeal to different audiences, such as families, retired folks, locals, and tourists.
I love the variety and varied assignments each exhibition presents; each is a learning experience for our team as it is for those who visit. There are many similarities between what is needed for in-house exhibitions and for traveling exhibitions: logistics, research, writing, and artifact collection. Then the best part starts–the installation! For three weeks, we paint, build, and use power tools. We arrange display cases, make mounts for artifacts, and dress mannequins. We frame prints, write labels, and hang art.
Nothing is more gratifying than seeing visitors in the finished show. While we watch attendees enjoy an exhibition, we are already working behind the scenes on the next one, making sure there is always something new, educational, and enjoyable for our members and visitors.