Center Spotlight: January 2011
The "No Idea Is Too Ridiculous" Project
Click for more about the project and the "No Idea" publication >
What does imagination and creativity look like in interpreting public history? The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage considers this topic one of its chief concerns, supporting organizations in the Philadelphia region that take risks, challenge audience expectations, and push beyond nostalgia in their work in the field. Recently, five organizations participated in "No Idea Is Too Ridiculous," a project designed by HPP to help constituents separate the real from imagined constraints in realizing a museum project, and to encourage them to take new strides in creative programming and practice. "No Idea" began in June with a two-day workshop led by Kathleen McLean, principal of Independent Exhibitions, a museum consulting firm specializing in exhibition development, design, programming, and strategic planning. Over the course of the workshop, each team developed a project idea around the theme "under the radar," and received a small grant of $1,000 for hard costs, as well as eight weeks to plan and implement projects. The Center is pleased to present the results of these five undertakings below, as well as thoughts from the participants at the end of the project's run in November.
The Science and Art of Colonial Brewing
The Franklin Institute's program took science into its own neighborhood at the Kite and Key, located a few blocks from the museum's building. The program offered a look at both the history and science of beer-making, including a demonstration by employees of Philadelphia's Yards Brewing Company. Also on hand was Ben Franklin's own tankard, returned to its "natural setting" for that afternoon only. View a slideshow of images from the program above.
A Musical Finding Aid for the Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt Papers
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania commissioned five composers to create short musical compositions that respond to the finding aid (a document containing detailed information about a specific collection of papers or records within an archive) for the Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt Papers. Greenewalt was a musician herself, as well as an inventor. Watch one of the commissioned works above, Maurice Wright's "Light-Color Play," which utilizes a painted board by Greenwalt. Visit the HSP blog to listen and view additional work.
The Private Parts of Victorian Sexuality
The Bucks County Historical Society created the first of what they expect to be a series of "adult" programs exploring the infinite sexual complexity of American Victorian society. The program included a lecture, historical objects (e.g. stereoscope viewers), and a performance by the neo-burlesque troupe Peekaboo Revue. View a slideshow of images from the program above.
Blasting Through the Silence: The Allegheny Arsenal Explosion of 1862 and the Creation of Public Memory
The National Archives and Records Administration, Mid-Atlantic Region, laid the groundwork for an ongoing project to explore the relatively unknown history of a large explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in 1862, a tragic incident that was overshadowed by the Battle of Antietam. An artist was commissioned to create a visual representation of the arsenal and explosion, and the Archives organized an exhibit to help visitors understand the ways in which history is both remembered and forgotten. Watch a video of the "No Idea" group perusing the exhibit above.
Questioning Quakers, Questioning Sanity & Questioning Our Heritage
Wyck, a historic house in Germantown, used the "No Idea" project to explore new ways of offering visitors a customizable experience inside the house, while surfacing stories that are "under the radar" at the site. The Wyck staff commissioned cartoonist Melissa Lomax to create illustrations that added a humorous spin to these complex and sometimes difficult stories, in order to engage visitors. View a slideshow of Lomax's Wyck cartoons above.
To learn more about the "No Idea Is Too Ridiculous" project and to obtain a copy of the "No Idea" publication, visit our Publications & Research section. You can also visit the websites of all five participating organizations: