How does that make you feel?

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Today at the National Zoo we couldn’t help ourselves but be drawn to all the cute animals, both big and small. Yet, as you look around, each habitat and enclosure is different. The walls that have what we would consider exhibition style labels all tell their own unique story. While a zoo is not a museum, we both strive for creating a feeling or a state of mind for our visitors. While the feeling may be directed by the topic of the museum or exhibition, the state of mind you place your visitors in is important.

For example, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the exhibition revolving around the history of the slave trade is purposefully made dark and narrow. You feel uncomfortable and confined. Your emotions are meant to sync with the history you are learning about.

As Tim Wendel explained to us earlier this week, place your reader [in this case audience] in a scene. That scene is the state of mind we want our visitors to either understand upon their entrance or gain following their visit. We strive to tell stories about the items in our museum, whether they are object-based or story-based. By creating a desirable state of mind your audience can gain an even greater understanding and experience of your exhibition and your museum.

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture: “I cannot believe I am finally here.”

I have waited with such anticipation to see this museum since I learned we were going to be visiting. I had heard about the long lines and the lack of tickets for months and to be able to have the ability to go thrilled me.

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The museum is incredibly powerful and moving. From the design of the building, the layout of the exhibitions, to the staff who work there, it is all spectacular. There were so many parts of the visit that caused me to stop and ponder both emotionally and intellectually. It is hard to narrow down just one experience to discuss, yet I can think of one that made me very concerned.

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Today I learned a great deal about African Americans who fought in both the Revolutionary and Civil War. Their stories were powerful and moving, yet I had never heard of any of them before. How is this possible? Why is this history missing from my text book? I stopped and thought, “who gets to decide the narrative of what is incorporated into our textbooks and why does it suddenly feel so one-sided?” As a museum professional, it is so important to tell the stories that people either miss or know nothing about in our museums, we exist to educate the public and hold history in a public trust. The National Museum of African American History and Culture does just that, highlighting narratives that are so important to our American story but have yet to have been told on such a level until recently.