Greenback America

Welcome to Greenback America


Each Friday, we plan to share an entry from the Greenback America Tumblr blog, which is run by the team creating a special exhibit for our new Museum building at Historic Tredegar. Guest Curator Chris Graham introduces the project in this first post.

Welcome to Greenback America

What an exciting time to be in museums. Long gone are the days of dry exhibits and stony authority. The museum world today exists in an environment of shared authority, visitor centeredness and meaningful engagement. Right here in Richmond, we are surrounded by a variety of exciting museums and exhibits: The Story of Virginia at the Virginia Historical SocietyThe Virginia Man: Respect, Responsibility, Rebellion at The Valentine, and the permanent exhibition at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia are all models of clean elegance that platform often-surprising combinations of artifacts and images. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts crackles with relevant commentary on race in the world. Speed at the Science of Museum of Virginia bursts with kinetic energy and engagement. And on a smaller, but no less important scale, the temporary exhibit of artifacts unearthed by the Urban Archaeology Corps/GroundworkRVA in Chimborazo Park reveal that unexpected explorers have a place in redefining Richmond’s historical landscape.

On the Greenback America team, we have been motivated by this museum environment and will strive to draw from it as we create an exhibition that meets the expectations of the ACWM’s impact statement—inspired by personalized connections with the stories of the Civil War, visitors will see themselves as actors in an alive and evolving history.

In that spirit of engagement and audience-centeredness—and because we’re really excited about what we are doing—this Tumblr will chronicle the development of this new temporary exhibit. As you may know, doing an exhibition is not placing a book on the wall. It is a process that involves a whole range of decisions that relate to everything from square footage and available artifacts to discerning the needs and interests of target audiences and the creation of experiences in the exhibit space that will make meaning on site and beyond.

The process is centered on audience, meaning that we make decisions about interpretation and design with visitor experience in mind as we create preliminary interpretive plans and final design decisions. Often, that will include consulting with audiences in formal and informal ways. In the former, we will use focus groups and prototyping on and off site. In the later, we are documenting our progress with you. We hope our transparency produces conversation with you that will further inform how we shape this exhibit. So, please join us for this journey as we converse with target audiences, do historical research in historical archives and other repositories, visit the best history museums around, think about how to shape visitor experience, and learn how to talk about our topic in ways that resonate with current and new audiences.

Speaking of which—our topic. In our next post, the museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow, Michael T. Caires, will tell you just what it is about Greenbacks and the Civil War that we find so exciting.