Party Lines—The Story Behind the Story

The History of the Telephone exhibit at the Freedom Historical Society

Illuminating the past through storytelling

We have enjoyed working with Freedom Historical Society and Saving Stories to create an exhibit on the History of the Telephone.

One of the most interesting aspects of developing an exhibit is the process of illustrating the main story bring you to the point where you discover the story behind the story.

Telephone companies have offered party lines since the late 1800s. One of the intriguing aspects of this is that party lines provided no privacy in communication. John Shipman of the Freedom Historical Society told us the story of how a gentleman called his wife to have her bring him a new plow part during a snowstorm when the operator chimed in insisting that it was unsafe for him to request this, and so he had to find another way to get the part.

The History of the Telephone exhibit at the Freedom Historical Society

Party lines were a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighborhoods of emergencies, becoming a cultural fixture for many decades.

Illuminating the past through storytelling connects us with the objects that we curate. The stories behind the stories help us to create an emotional connection with history.

The History of the Telephone exhibit at the Freedom Historical Society

Exhibit Design Concepts and the Guilty Party

We presented the design of an interactive exhibit at a unique event.

Gestural interface exhibit showing how mills changed the historical landscape of Woonsocket, RI

This multi-touch gestural interface exhibit uses the Blackstone River as a metaphor for change; visitors learn about how the mills changed the historical landscape of Woonsocket, RI. The interface allows multiple users to access a series of maps tapping into video interviews and deeper content depending on the visitor’s interest.

In a world with Mail Chimp and Constant Contact, with their API, and CRM strategies, it was nice to have an in-person fundraising event. The Museum of Work and Culture demonstrated this concept recently with the Murder in the Mill Mystery. Themed as a 1920s whodunit, guests wore their age jazz finery. The men were in wingtip collars, the women in sequins and tiaras, it was a sparkling event to promote the new Mills of Woonsocket exhibit.

This event was more than just a party for two reasons. First, the actors playing the roles of murderers and victims were performing an improvised script based on the Sentinelle Affair, a French nationalist movement that took place in Woonsocket from 1923 to 1929. One actor put the Rhode Island Historical Society, sponsors of the event, in the spotlight by playing a member of the Society mixed up in the affair. Secondly, we presented the design concept right before they announced the guilty party.

Ed Malouf of Content Design presnting a gestural interface exhibit at the Museum of Work and Culture, featured in The Call, Woonsocket, RI newspaper

Anne Conway, Director of the Museum of Work and Culture, featured in The Call, Woonsocket, RI newspaper

It was a success, after the presentation, one member of the audience, a mill owner, offered a substantial contribution to the project. The audience was quite jolly, never before have I conducted a video presentation in such a festive atmosphere!

Carol Lieb and Ed Malouf participating at the Murder Mystery at the Museum of Work and Culture, image by Judith Potter Photography

Judith Potter Photography captured the guests in their madcap finery. This was an evening, and a presentation that we will never forget, all of the sponsors were there and gave use valuable input about the development of this compelling computer based interactive experience

Gestural interface exhibit showing the historical landscape of Woonsocket, 1870 map from the Atlas of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Beers, 1870 Gestural interface exhibit hightlighting photography by Lewis Hine, and an interview with Irene Carpenter, at the Museum of Work and Culture, Woonsocket, RI

Plymouth exhibit put to the test at History Camp

Plymouth 1620-2020 will receive a peer review at History Camp Boston 2016.

This gathering of curators, professors, librarians and archivists is based on the international BarCamp idea which originated in the tech industry. This forum for participant-generated content and discussion is an “unconference”. We will ask participants to consider the question: Would the Wampanoag Nation have issued Miles Standish a visa?

Miles Standish at the Plimouth Plantation is a very important part of the Plymouth 1620-2020 exhibit

Our firm has designed a traveling exhibit for the upcoming 400th anniversary, this exhibit provides a parallel narrative of both Wampanoag and English points of view and asks the visitor to consider the events of 1620-21 in context and to reconsider their perceptions of this historic event. Since the material in the exhibit underlies significant shared beliefs about an iconic event in American history we look forward to a comment from like-minded professionals outside of the development team and Plymouth 400 committee.

We will present our work to-date and ask for feedback on what they have just seen; what about that split entry experience; consider unforeseen aspects of the Mayflower immersion exhibit, and evaluating “How Many Survived” in the “Watching and Waiting” exhibit?
This session will prove to be a lively discussion because all of us history buffs are by nature myth busters. See for yourself, and if you are in New England, please attend while there is still time to register for History Camp Boston-2016.
This exhibit Plymouth 1620-2020 is under development with Plymouth 400 the organization tasked with commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the English Colonists to the shores of Patuxet, now known as Plymouth. Scheduled for the fall of 2017 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids Michigan with several other venues pending.