If your organization is looking for creative ways to engage your audience, here are four Leadership in History Awards winning projects with some unique approaches:
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area commemorated the sesquicentennial of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, through a reenactment on Twitter. The raid took place between pro-slavery Bushwhackers and abolitionist-leaning Jayhawkers on the Missouri-Kansas border, and left hundreds dead and the town in ruins. By extensively researching primary source accounts, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area was able to give voice to 51 personal accounts of the raid. Starting at 5:30a.m., the characters tweeted about the raid in real time, using the hashtag #QR1863 so people could follow the entire event. The hashtag trended worldwide and received extensive viewership on social media. By using Twitter as the platform for the reenactment, they were able to reach a vast (and often new) audience.
When interest from the central Ohio community prompted the Ohio History Connection to reconsider opening the Ohio Village, a recreated 1860s Ohio town, they knew they would need a new operating model. To reopen the village, the Ohio History Connection decided to treat it like a timeshare. Volunteers who serve as interpreters live and work in their timeshare building as often as they like from Memorial Day through Labor Day. By doing so, they perform the necessary daily tasks of keeping the buildings up and functioning and invite guests to explore what a living, breathing Civil War era community in Ohio would have felt like. Valuable artifacts were replaced with reproductions and visitors are invited to participate in chores and local gossip.
Statistics can be overwhelming. Especially when large numbers are involved, it can be hard to keep a sense of scale. Artwork and sculpture are great ways to help audiences understand important statistics by putting things in a concrete visual scale. The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has done just that with prison statistics. A 16 foot tall sculpture illustrates statistics related to: the growth in U.S. incarceration rates between 1900 and 2010, the changing racial breakdown of the American prison populations in 1970 and in 2010, and policies about capital punishment around the world. Through this installation, they hope to help people understand the changes in the United States criminal justice system and contemporary conversations about the justice system.
Traveling Interactive Graphic Novel
The Kentucky Historical Society looked to foster dialogue about the meaning of the Civil War in their commemoration of the war’s sesquicentennial. To do this, they created an interactive traveling exhibit which focuses on the lives of eight Kentuckians in a graphic novel format. Visitors are shown historic problems each character faced and are then invited to choose between multiple paths of action. This dynamic format helped increase student interest in the project and provided a platform for talking about both the Civil War and the process of doing history.
To learn more about the specific projects from the award winners, check out their project profiles:
#QR1863: A Twitter Reenactment of Quantrill’s Raid –Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, Watkins Museum of History, Lawrence Public Library; Lawrence, KS
Ohio Valley Timeshare –Ohio History Connection; Columbus, OH
The Big Graph –Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site; Philadelphia, PA
Torn Within and Threatened Without: Kentuckians in the Civil War Era –Kentucky Historical Society; Frankfort, KY
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