The Work behind “The Way We Worked”
For 125 years people of Goodland have worked many different jobs that have helped define Goodland and Sherman County. The High Plains Museum collects and shares these stories with the public as its main focus of work, which was made easy given the national lens on work offered in the Smithsonian traveling exhibit The Way We Worked now on display. Accompanying the national exhibit is the community portrait of work examined in the exhibit 125 Years of Work also on display at the High Plains Museum, in addition to companion exhibits at the Carnegie Arts Center, the Goodland Public Library, and the Ennis-Handy House. Together these exhibits tell the work stories of our nation and hometown by highlighting the jobs and the people that built our country. We would like to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the work to create the Goodland exhibit and the set up of the Smithsonian exhibit.
The staff at the High Plains Museum started the brainstorming process of 125 Years of Work in the Fall of 2011. The exhibit was designed to tell the story of the development of Goodland through the different “categories” or areas of work—i.e. agriculture, education, health, leisure activities, etc. From there, a script was developed (a script is the layout of the information contained in the exhibit), that explained in detail the photographs selected and the area of work featured on the panel. The exhibit was designed to feature large graphic panels, banners, and simple interactives (a chalkboard for visitors to write on and blank community developer cards for visitors to fill out). Photographs were selected, scanned, and placed into the panel designed by staff using Photoshop. The exhibit was designed using hollow core doors as the support for the panels which were connected by rods. The space between the doors was used to hang a large graphic banner and chicken wire for pinning the community developer cards.
Six individuals were chosen from Sherman County’s past for the “Community Builders”/community developer cards. Along with the six individuals, blank cards were created so that the public could pick their own community builders of Goodland. These cards would be attached to chicken wire so people could easily place their own cards in the exhibit.
Designing the panels took about two weeks to complete with placement, tweaking, and editing. When the panels were ready to be printed they were saved and sent to Commercial Sign in Colby to be produced.
When the panels were delivered it was time to assemble the exhibit! The doors had holes drilled in them so a rod could be inserted to attach the doors together. When that was finished the doors were laid on the floor to adhere the graphic panels (which are basically big stickers). When the panels were attached, the doors were set on their sides to insert the rods which were then secured with a screw drilled into one side. The doors were then set upright so the other door could be connected and the rod screwed in. A photograph banner and chicken wire were attached during this process as well and once it was complete it was moved to be displayed. Objects from the collection were chosen to go along with this exhibit and they were set out on a platform under large photograph banners.
The Smithsonian exhibit, The Way We Worked, was delivered on
Tuesday December 11, 2012 in twelve crates. David Kreider from the Kauffman Museum brought the exhibit and helped set it up. First the layout of the exhibit was done, so we knew where each panel would go, and then the assembly process began. This exhibit has five sections and each section is made of a series of half panels that fit on top of each other using plastic connectors. Flip books, an audio box and televisions fit into grooves made for them and the objects slide right into their designated spots. To set up the entire exhibit took five workers three hours.
A lot of work went into creating and setting up these exhibits and it took staff two months to make sure everything was just right for the opening. Exhibit design is hard work but the payoff is worth the work, especially as we get to tell the stories of the work that made our nation and our town great. In addition to the exhibit set up, staff sent postcards, flyers, and gave presentations on the exhibit to local groups to market and promote the exhibit. Staff also walked up and down Main Street asking businesses to participate and give us their business profile so that it would go on exhibit in 125 Years of Work.
Educational programming is also offered with this exhibit. Tours are available for school groups of all ages, led by a staff member of the museum. Also available to schools is The Way We Worked traveling trunk which focuses on work done in Goodland and Sherman County. This traveling trunk contains lesson plans for Kindergarten through fourth grade, activities, and hands-on objects the kids can touch to help illustrate the work done by these jobs. Tours for the public are offered daily at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM led by a staff member. Our work continues as we host special events, encourage visitors to explore American work, and maintain the exhibits.
It has been an exhilarating process to prepare for the Smithsonian, and we are certainly pleased to show off our community in such a fashion. Come see how Americans have worked over the decades at The Way We Worked Smithsonian exhibit. The Way We Worked Kansas tour is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council in partnership with
the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. Support for The Way We Worked Kansas tour has been provided by the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation, the Western Kansas Community Foundation, and Jostens. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. To find out more information visit the High Plains Museum and find us online (highplainsmuseum.org).