What places can archive, curate, or just show-off student history projects?
Summer 2017 I spent four weeks walking around the United States east coast. I enjoyed Savannah and Charleston’s river streets, Wilmington’ beach, Richmond’s museums, and of course a lot of history! As I walked around I was impressed with how connected these old American towns were to their history. For example, many old buildings had been converted to historical monuments and museums, such as Charleston Slave Market Museum.
I began to think about my own local town and how many businesses exist near the school or have parents of students in the school. How great would be if students could work on history projects that would then go into those businesses to be curated and displayed. The sky is the limit on this idea, all businesses have a history or exist with social themes that could have historical exhibits.
An immediate example I thought of was the beauty salon that is only a block away from my school. I thought of this place considering its proximity to the school, but also because a student of mine completed a project on the history of hair fashion between the 1920s and 1960s. The student created a large exhibit that was in part made out of a vanity mirror and hung pictures and information around the mirror.
"How great would be if students could work on history projects that would then go into those businesses to be curated and displayed."
An exhibit such as this could and should be displayed somewhere, but unfortunately schools do not have the space to accommodate all student projects. Businesses though could have an interesting element in their lobbies, waiting rooms, or any other location an interested person has a few moments to relax and read.
Curation and display at businesses would improve student motivation to make a project worth seeing. If students know that a project will be seen by others outside of the school, then they will be motivated to do a good job, especially if it is a place that they frequent. This would also create a bit of legacy for a project. Student projects tend to go in the garbage bin once they are completed. Throwing a person’s hard work away does not give off a feeling of “we genuinely were happy that you put in such effort.
Local businesses should be doing their utmost to draw in young clients into their locations. If students know their project is at a location, they will encourage friends and family to see the attraction, thus prompting them to spend money at those locations. The business does not have to do much effort, only reserve a space for items to be curated. Deals can be made with the business to hold items for certain periods of time, and contact the creator if they wish to have it back. Or a business could constantly rotate exhibits, giving the feeling of a museum where attractions change often. The business owners and employees themselves could participate in the choosing and judging of the projects. The judging could happen at the business and have it made known to the public. There are probably many more benefits that could be thought of, but the few mentioned would encourage businesses and schools for encouraging this type of relationship.
A final thought: Some other teachers are working on projects at the school that could provide an excellent ‘place’ for history projects. How could the school’s garden project be a good place for history projects? Any students who are interested in agricultural history could have their projects displayed at the garden site. The garden could then become something more than growing fruit and vegetables. It could become a place that houses the memories of history. A place that holds the desires of young people to know about their past.