“When partnerships are formed, amazing things can happen,” said Jennifer Pecora, Fort Walla Walla Museum communications manager.
Walla Walla University design students approached the museum to collaborate and produce an update to a museum exhibit, she said in a release.
The students could design, fabricate and install any elements associated with the exhibit. The result provided them with practical experience, starting with a concept and modifying it to fit with an organization’s budget and expectations. It benefitted the museum, which lacks time and resources to refresh some of its older permanent exhibits, Jennifer said.
One of the spaces shown to the students was Exhibit Hall 4. To date the space acted more like functional storage, keeping large and small items safe from outside elements, including the Jo-So Sheep Wagon, a doctor’s buggy, an ox-shoeing chute, and several display cases filled with dozens of unlabeled tools.
In this busy space the WWU design students saw potential for an improved exhibit. Over the course of the semester, the students worked in teams to come up with solutions for an exhibit within the existing environment. The creative teams drew up their designs, created cost estimates for the time and work and pitched these ideas to the museum’s new collections manager, Shannon Buchal, for feedback.
“When I gave them the project, I basically just took them into the space and asked them how they felt about it and what they thought needed to change,” Shannon said.
“Then I directed them to the cases with the tools. I asked them to help turn it into an exhibit that would be informative and teach people who didn’t know quite as much about the tools and the industries to which they belonged.”
“The results are beyond anything the museum expected,” Jennifer said.
The exhibit design is clean and finished, incorporates a warm, rustic quality that relates to the museum’s sensibilities and the items and industries being displayed.
Viewers see a double-sided wall with particular tools and signs to identify and describe them. Featured are tools of various trades, including woodwork, livestock, leatherwork and industry. The different methods used to display the tools lends visual interest to the installment, while the addition of photos add a greater context.
The wall deliberately moves viewers around the installment. A bench on the other side has a built-in display so kids can peek in at an array of metal tools. On the wall are two interactive wall elements that invite kids to solve visual puzzles, Jennifer said.
The students fixed the Jo-So Sheep Wagon with a new wooden viewing platform for shorter visitors.
While the students were only tasked with reimaging the tool case display, they also produced several hanging signs identifying other items within the exhibit hall. The overall effect is transformative.
“I think that it looks like a whole new building,” Shannon said. “They were able to breathe new life into the space and make it something fun and informative that all ages can enjoy.”
“All of their work looks so polished and professional, from the shape of the wall to the section lettering and the built-in artifact cubbies,” Jennifer said. “It’s great to see new creative energies make positive changes.”
“I especially think the central table is a great addition,” said Kt Sharkey, museum store manager. “It adds seating and brings the tools down to a level where the kids can examine them — they were up too high before. I also keep hearing comments from visitors and volunteers about how clean and nice the wood additions are.”
“We greatly value our long-term partnership with WWU,” added Executive Director James Payne.
“The production of exhibits by their design class adds a significant new dimension to our relationship. This could become an annual project that benefits their students, the museum, and our visitors.”
The inspired design, fabrication and donation of the exhibit came from WWU design students Richard Collins IV, Carlye Smedley, Kristina Bergeron, Richard Wilcox, Ross Nelson, Connor Hubin, Ryan Pierce, Ashley H. Saturné, Rohan Creighton II, Caleb Brown, Ian Milledge, Andrew Beardsley, Janette Wagness and Michael Wang and Professor Pablo Wenceslao.
Fort Walla Walla Museum is located at 755 Myra Road in Fort Walla Walla Park. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is free to members and children under 6, $4 for children ages 6-12, $8 for seniors 62 and older and students and $9 general admission. For information call 509-525-7703 or see fwwm.org.