Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some New Arrivals...

I just had to share some new arrivals that I'll be drawing more ration recipes from. I'm super excited and am totally in love with these little menu planners!


Project 52: Rationing - Week 8 - Scalloped Vegetables with Bacon

Week 8 has arrived in my ration cooking project and I am sweeted out. In our family we have 3 birthdays that are each 2 weeks apart, and Valentine's Day in the middle doesn't help. We quickly become tired of cake and ice cream. I'm seriously thinking of threatening our son with no cake or ice cream for his upcoming birthday. I just don't want any more cake in the house! Maybe I can convince him of a berry pie with custard or something of that sort? Just something not very sweet.

So, naturally, with having sweets-overload I wanted to make something more savory this week. I flipped through some British recipes in my Victory Cookbook compiled by Margeurite Patten and found just the one - Scalloped Vegetables with Bacon.

There's a lot that I like about this recipe just by looking at it. For one, you can use a bunch of vegetables you just have on hand. This would have been great for whatever you had growing in your victory garden or for spare vegetables you had on hand. It's a great way of getting in a lot of vegetables with your meal too. I think this is considered a main dish with the addition of a few delicious strips of bacon.

Another great thing that I love about this recipe is that it calls for "national flour" which is something British citizens used during the war. I've been wanting to make a recipe with national flour for awhile. I was always curious what exactly made this flour different than the average refined white flour, so I did a search. I hate that the only thing I can find about national flour is on wikipedia, but they seem to have good sources. The article I found states that national flour consisted of 90% wheat and 10% other grains - oats, barley, and rye as well as some oxidizing agents to aid in the flour's baking qualities. National flour was adpoted in Britiain in 1942 for health reasons and wheat import concerns. Britain imported a lot of food, but they lost a lot of those ships to enemy bombers and submarines during the war which was why they had to strategically turn to their own land to produce most of their food. All very interesting! (You can learn more about this in detail by watching BBC's Wartime Farm.)

Anyway, I'm happy this recipe calls for national flour. I have a grinder as well as oats, wheat, rye, and barley, so I'm going to make my own national flour! (even though the recipe only calls for 2 Tbsp. haha!)

If you look closely you can see the different types of grain - wheat, rye, barley, & oats.
I used 9 tablespoons of wheat and 1 tablespoon of the other grains combined.
National flour! Hooray!
Well, it's not 100% the same. Wheat then is a bit different than wheat today. Also, national flour used wheat that had an 85% extraction while this is 100% - straight from my grinder.

Now I'm ready to start my recipe. 

I like this little cartoon below from my British Victory Cookbook. "Why is a potato like a lump of sugar?" In the 1940s their view of starch and sugar was a bit different than today. Sugar was considered a good energy food along with starch. The British government was also very big into encouraging the British public to eat potatoes "in their jackets" for the nutrients. Potatoes were filling without the use of grain or meat. 

"Why is a potato like a lump of sugar?"
Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten


Bread crumbs, cabbage, potatoes, leek, celery, carrots, bacon, butter, and national flour!

First I needed to gather my vegetables, clean them, and cut them up.

A pot full of veg + a pint of water (2 cups)

Nicely steamed veg.
 After cooking the vegetables, I arranged them in an oven-proof dish. Well, I used two dishes because my Fire King dish was too small. I made a sauce of the melted butter, national flour, and the vegetable water - which is essentially a white sauce. I love how they emphasize using that vitamin-rich water! I had to add a little extra water to thin the sauce out some more. (I also cheated a bit and ground some pepper over the vegetables.) Then I poured the sauce over the veg, laid the bacon out over the top and then sprinkled on the bread crumbs.

Looking good!
 I broiled it on 375ยบ in my toaster oven for about 20 - 25 minutes. Everyone's oven is different, so you'll want to broil it until the bacon is crisp and the bread crumbs are browned.

Yummy! My husband took this picture, because I had to leave for a chiropractor appointment.

Incidentally, this is what was served for dinner! I can see how it would have made a good main meal. Personally, I'm sensitive to starchy foods like potatoes, so I couldn't eat too much of it. But as my husband said, "It's pretty tasty!"

Give it a try! You can always substitute different veggies that are lurking in your crisper drawer. :-) And you don't need national flour to give it a try, either. The recipe says you can use fine oatmeal - something you can make in your food processor.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 7 - Poor Knight's Fritters

Poor Knight's Fritters
from the Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten

This week has been a little crazy, so I needed a quick rationing recipe to whip up before the week was out. I can really sympathize with women during WWII who had busy lives helping with the war effort in their various ways, keeping the home running, feeding and caring for their children, etc. Having an easy snack or dessert to throw together not only helped round out the meal, but psychologically it would have better helped the family be able to cope with wartime conditions. This is true for any disaster/tragic scenario you could think of - having comfort foods helps keep a feeling of normalcy and keeps the shock at bay.

This was especially true for British women and their families, not to mention all those Brits who had to cope with daily bombings during the Blitz in London. One of the most amazing books I've read about this is called Wartime Letters From Britain. The book is a compilation of letters that British citizens wrote during the war, many of them to friends and family overseas in America. The letters about the Blitz are especially moving. Their words just struck me with such awe at what those people had to live through and yet they had such a positive fighting spirit through it all. I read one letter where this woman mentioned that some people complained when the daily bombings weren't "on time" because they scheduled their lives around their regularity. Another woman wrote about how she stole upstairs to take a bath during one of the air raids and she stared out of her darkened room to the city-scape being lit up by the bombs and how strangely beautiful it was while at the same time being so horrifying because of the power of their destruction. Gripping, powerful stuff! I highly, highly recommend reading the book!

On that note, I decided to try another recipe from my Victory Cookbook compiled by Margeurite Patten. Poor Knight's Fritters caught my eye. They looked a little like French toast fingers only they're sandwiched with jam. Interesting! I've heard of similar things before in England, but had never tried them. Today was my chance! I love that the recipe says the cooking time is only a few minutes. Just what I needed. They were so easy: all the recipe requires is bread, a filling such as jam, syrup, or thick fruit puree, a little margarine, some fat to fry them in and optional things like reconstituted egg and a little milk.

Bread, a lovely rhubarb cherry raspberry jam, butter, milk, and some reconstituted egg.
 I only had 5 slices of bread, but this recipe is very easily adaptable to what you have on hand, which is nice! I used butter. I seriously considered buying margarine to use for these recipes, but I read the label and just couldn't bring myself to buy it. It's full of all sorts of horrible things I don't want my family to be eating. And it's really hard to say if margarine now is really all that equal to 1940s margarine... Butter's the same though!

Four slices of bread were dedicated to jam. But I really wanted to finally open my jar of British golden syrup I've had sitting around for awhile. So, I busted it out. Hooray!

Golden syrup is a thick cane syrup with a delightful buttery, butterscotch flavor to it. My guess is that it's either got some of molasses in it or it's made from browned sugar. My bet is on the latter. It's true that there's nothing quite like it, so if a recipe calls for it, don't substitute!

Gorgeous golden syrup!


I scraped a thin layer of butter on one half of my slices, including the odd end slice which I cut in half. I was really sparing with the butter just to get into the spirit of the butter rationing. The other half of slices I spread jam on the bread and the golden syrup went on the little half slice.

Cut into little fingers


Four jam fingers and one golden syrup finger got dipped in the optional coating of reconstituted egg and a bit of milk. The others were left plain. Then I fried them in a pan with butter, flipping halfway through.

Frying them up in butter! Lard may have been a good choice too since it would have been a cleaner taste without the milk fat and salt. 

Looking lovely and golden!


The last step was to sprinkle them with sugar. I used a bit less than a teaspoon. Don't they look delicious?! And they were. I was pleasantly surprised with how the ones with the golden syrup turned out. That gorgeous sweet and butterscotch flavor with the saltiness of the butter and crunch of sugar was awesome. The ones that were coated in egg and milk were more on the soggy side, but they were nice. And the added protein is always a bonus. This is a very quick, easy, and yummy dessert or tea time snack. You know what else? They remind me of a funky 1940s healthier version of Pop Tarts. Haha! 

Give it a try! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reenacting Once Again?

A teenaged me - dressed as a Union soldier
for the one and only time.
I think I cut a pretty good figure, don't you?
My husband and I just discussed last night about starting up reenacting as a family. This is the first time we've seriously considered it. I did Civil War reenacting as a teenager, and as I was homeschooled through high school, this was my biggest social time. Even my "prom" was my own Civil War coming out ball at the beautiful Hannah House in Indianapolis. I grew out of it/became disenchanted with reenacting in my early 20s for various reasons. One big part was the stupid politics and the other was that I found it pointless. I wanted something meaningful to do, but as a single young 20-something, the opportunities weren't that many. I did participate in dress competitions and did well at those, but it wasn't very meaningful in regards to teaching history. Not to mention I discovered that I really don't like the 1860s very well!

When I got married, my husband had never been to a reenactment and while he enjoys history, it's just not his thing like it is with me. So, reenacting never really came up on the radar for us until recently when we were looking for something to do as a family. I miss a lot of aspects of reenacting. The smell of wood smoke still gets my heart racing and I was pleasantly surprised how much our children enjoyed going to a couple events in costume. Reenacting with kids isn't easy by yourself (Ft. McHenry last September was a big eye-opener with my husband overseas), so it wasn't something I was willing to embark on all by my lonesome.

So, I was very thrilled when we talked about doing it as a family. We both like camping, but haven't gone much with our kids. Going to specific events would definitely make sure we go camping at least a few times during the year. And being involved in the history community is really important to me, so the historical aspect of reenacting helps with that. We also homeschool, and reenacting is an irreplaceable part of being immersed in learning about a specific time period. I'm interested to see how my husband takes to reenacting. I'm very grateful he's just willing to give it a try!

I am still against 1st person interpretation. "Creating a character" doesn't interest me. So, I'm going to need to find a niche of something I can do to feel like my time spent is meaningful, but also useful toward teaching my children and visitors. We're leaning toward Revolutionary War era because I like the history, the clothing, and the Rev War events and sites in our Mid-Atlantic region are plentiful. I feel very blessed for this! I also don't think the silly politics are as prevalent as they are with Civil War reenacting. I am especially excited to research my ancestry more and identify those that lived during the late 1700s. I already know of one great-great-great (etc.) grandfather that served in the Continental Army. This will really help us connect to our heritage as a family!

Since we've decided this, my mind has been going crazy thinking of all the things we need to prepare. We need a tent, clothes, and some basic gear. I am so happy that we recently got a pick-up truck. This makes going to reenactments a lot easier! Our clothing is the biggest task. Rev War has been at the far nether regions of my brain since I've been focusing on Regency. Last night I even ironed my fabric in anticipation of cutting out the pieces for my cross-over gown. I was going to use the fabric that I'd set aside for my first Rev War dress. Now, however, I'm having second thoughts! What to do?! I don't know how historically accurate the fabric is for Rev War, but I think it's a good choice.

Here's what I need to make:
- dress for myself
- corset (another one!?)
- underclothing (2 sets)
- cap and hat
- invest in shoes for myself
- girl's dress
- girl's underclothing & bonnet
- boy's shirt and breeches
- boy's drawers
- shoes & stockings for the kids
- man's shirt & breeches
- man's drawers?
- man's shoes?

Aaack! I know my husband said we should take it slow and not expect to be 100% accurate right off the bat, but the clothing... I can come close, right? There's just something inside me that screams out in frustration if we don't have accurate clothing. I try not to be a history snob, but I want to do my best at being accurate. That's a lot of stress though. It's a lot of clothing to make for one person, so I need to get started!

My husband found a good tent link: Tentsmiths

Links for getting together our Rev War attire:
How to construct an 18th century corset
Burnley & Trowbridge - good for patterns, shoes, and a bit of fabric & notions
Jas. Townsend & Son, Inc. - everything Rev War! (I used to sigh in happiness over their catalog. haha!)
Past Patterns
Mantua Maker Corset Patterns
Reproduction Fabrics
Rennaisance Fabrics

Finding a family-friendly Rev War unit is a big task as well. I think the first event is sometime in April. I need to do more research. The best way to meet up with new units is to go to the event and we haven't been to any Rev War ones. I've e-mailed a couple people, so we'll see if I get a response. Lots to do, but I'm really excited!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Art of Manliness

Okay, I just had to pass on this link that my friend Mairi shared on Facebook, because I find it so stinkin' hilarious!

source: Alan Mays


"19th Century Callings Cards Guaranteed to Score You a Date" courtesy of The Art of Manliness blog.

What do you think? Would you talk to a guy that handed you one of these?

Project 52: Rationing - Week 6 - Cherry-Grapefruit Pudding



Cherry-Grapefruit Pudding

Happy Valentine's Day!


This has been another eventful week of life with my whole family progressively falling ill starting Sunday and Winter Storm Pax dumping about 20" of snow on us. Yikes!

Thankfully I'm feeling better today and I was able to finally turn some attention to this week's rationing recipe. I've been interested in the wide variety of WWII desserts using gelatin, flavored and unflavored, which are so iconic to America's food history. In my perusals I assumed I would see a ton of Jell-O brand advertisements, but I haven't seen any so far. That isn't to say the ads aren't out there, I just haven't seen the ads in the magazines I've looked at. (Jell-O officially started around 1900. Click on the link to read a history.) In all the 1940s recipes I've read, they all call for unflavored gelatin or a fruit-flavored gelatin, but don't specify any particular brand.

The funny thing with gelatin recipes is that they're not always for desserts. I can't remember which 1940s magazine I saw it in, but there was one recipe that called for lemon-flavored gelatin and tomato juice among other things. I shudder to think of eating it, but I should really just suck it up and try it anyway. haha!

So, I turned back to my Victory Cook Book since it has a few good recipes using gelatin. I was going to try an interesting-looking Butterscotch Spanish Cream recipe that uses unflavored gelatin, but as we've been sick, the Cherry-Grapefruit Pudding sounded so refreshing! Don't be fooled by the British name "pudding" though. This is a clear Jello-like gelatin recipe all the way. It's a fairly simple and quick recipe too, which was even better. I didn't want anything complicated today since I'm still feeling tired.

That was the great thing about gelatin recipes - they were a quick and easy solution to round out your meal after a long and busy day at your war job and fulfilling your homemaking responsibilities.


This recipe calls for cherry-flavored gelatin, grapefruit juice, chopped grapefruit pieces, cherries, and walnuts. Doesn't that sound lovely for a winter-time treat, not to mention a great Valentine's Day dessert?

I juiced some grapefruit - luckily it's in season. At least it was on sale anyway.

Then I mixed up the cherry gelatin with the hot water.
I added the grapefruit juice and then let it chill in the fridge until thickened, but not set. 
 
The recipe calls for fresh cherries, which you can't find at all this time of year, but luckily I had some in the freezer from last season. So, I added the cherries, grapefruit sections, and pecans (I'm slightly allergic to walnuts) then put the mixture into the chilled individual cups - 6 portions like the recipe called for. Then back into the fridge they went!

6 portions of Cherry-Grapefruit Pudding ready to chill
Looking yummy!

An hour later I pulled out a portion and gave it a try. Oh, my, it was as delicious and refreshing as I had been hoping for! This recipe is a keeper. The only thing I would leave out would be the nuts. I'm not fond of crunchy things in my gelatin. The grapefruit and cherries, though, are perfect! I never would have thought to put grapefruit in cherry gelatin, but it's awesome. Also, the addition of the grapefruit juice adds another wonderful notch of tartness that it needs. The recipe says to serve it with gingersnaps, so of course I had to make a batch of my favorite ginger snappies! 

A delicious, refreshing dessert of Cherry-Grapefruit Pudding and Gingersnaps!

I love these recipes from the Victory Cook Book because they have the 3 and 6 portion options.
  
"Desserts that spare sugar" - Victory Cook Book by Lysol.
I love this section - it says a lot! I had no idea commercial ice cream making had ceased. And I like how they list all the sweetening options available to Americans. I'm afraid the British weren't quite so lucky in their selection. 

So bright and cheery!
(I also had to show you my newly acquired Fire King Philbe custard dishes. Aren't they lovely? I got a matching casserole dish too! :-) )

And... surprise!
Look what I found in the June 1943 Ladies' Home Journal Magazine!
It's an advertisement for my Victory Cook Book! The very one I've been using. Haha! Fancy that!
Sometimes I'm so tempted to "send away" for these booklets just to see what would happen. ;-)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 5 - Campbell's Soup


This week's ration recipe might come as a surprise, because there is no recipe! I promise I didn't cop out! We had an ice storm and were without electricity and internet for 2 days. It's been a little stressful, but we made it through and I'm still catching up on so many things. We did have our generator running off and on, and therefore had periodic access to our microwave, but that does not make for easy or authentic 1940s cooking/baking!

So, during the miniature crisis, it got me thinking about "quick and easy" meals during WWII. What could I do for rationing that didn't use the stove or oven, but I could get by with using the microwave? Well, early one limited-power and internet-less morning, I was flipping through the December 1942 Ladies' Home Journal borrowed from my good friend Lori. As I flipped along I came upon two different soup ads - one for Campbell's and one for Heinz. And I thought... "This could work!"

Canned soup companies touted their products as being packed with nutrients and being a good choice for an economical, delicious meal for hubby or the family. I love the ad above. Here's a quote:

"Richer, more nourishing soups for a nation at war! In line with the Government's wartime requirements, each Campbell's Soup is today made to a new and improved recipe. More ingredients!... Each soup has been individually studied to determine how it could be stepped up in food and flavor value... stepped up to do an even more important share in feeding a nation at war. Out of all this have come new and improved recipes... soups of higher nourishment, richer flavor, giving more satisfaction and enjoyment than ever."

Love it! The nation's health while at war was a big focus of the government and I love seeing how food companies like Campbell's took that challenge on by changing recipes and adapting their advertisements to lure those customers in.

Another side to this story is that during the war, tinned food companies were in a difficult position. Metals, like tin, were rationed and desperately needed for the war effort. From what I understand, the government worked with companies that needed these rationed materials so there was a balance between allowing the businesses to operate and providing for everything the military needed. One method of dealing with this issue and still being able to make a profit was by making condensed soups (which equaled less water volume) whereby the cans could be made smaller.

Campbell's had been making condensed soups for quite awhile before this ad for Heinz in 1942.
On a side note, when I was doing research for a paper on the advent of the frozen food industry in the late 1930s, I found some articles talking about how frozen food got a huge boost during WWII because frozen food wasn't packaged in tin unlike the canned counterparts and didn't suffer as much as a result.

When I went to the store to scout out some soup, I took a list of soup varieties available in the 1940s from the ads that I found:
Campbells - Asparagus*, Beef, Bouillon*, Chicken*, Chicken Gumbo, Chicken Noodle*, Clam Chowder*, Consomme*, Consomme Madrilene, Green Pea*, Mock Turtle, Ox Tail, Pepper Pot, Scotch Broth, Tomato*, Vegetable*, Vegetarian Vegetable*, Vegetable Beef*

Heinz - Cream of Tomato*, Chicken Noodle*, Cream of Pea, Vegetarian Soup w/ Beef Stock*, Vegetarian Vegetable*, Vegetable Beef Soup*

I saw a number of the soups from Campbell's, but none from Heinz. After an online search I found a lot more and I put a star by the ones that you can still buy today for a comparison. It's too bad they don't make Ox Tail or Scotch Broth anymore! Ox Tail soup is awesome for when you're sick, especially with a sore throat. I've recently seen a traditional recipe for Scotch Broth and saw a recipe for it in my British Victory Cook Book as well, so that's on my list to try!

So, I bought a couple cans of Campbell's soup and had planned to heat them up in our microwave, but on our way home I stopped to check on a friend. As she finally had her electricity back, she invited my kids and I in for a warm lunch and I was able to heat my soup up on her stove. Warm house, warm food, and warm friends - you can't ask for more!

I promise next week I'll have another recipe. However - all is not lost! You can always get 1940s creative and buy a can of soup to either plan your meal around or buy a can of broth, chop up and add your own veggies and meat and have your own bowl of rationing goodness - "so crammed full of hearty nourishment that they can play a bigger part than ever in your plans for nutritious meals"! Perfect for a wintery evening. :-) (Keep to the "Healthy Request" to stay away from the MSG/sodium nitrates.)

Campbell's Soup ad, Ladies' Home Journal - December 1942

Mock Turtle??.....

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Future of History

I got to milk this cow! It was my first time too and I did a pretty good job!
Gotta love hands-on history experiences.
*Living History Farms, Iowa

I was filling out a ballot for ALHFAM and one of the people running for a position, Kristyn Watts, had something really interesting to say. I found myself nodding my head as I have had similar thoughts myself. Here's what she had to say: "I feel the most important issue facing ALHFAM is connecting the relevance of agriculture and history with today's technological society; whether communicating the story of origin or its current role in the world of instant gratification. Unfortunately, budgets leave scant room for agricultural history and it falls on our shoulders to make it available." 

Kristyn pointed out quite a few of the struggles that museums and history educators face in today's world. They face not only limited budgets, but they also face the steady onward march of technology and shifting cultural norms that challenge the ways museums have been run for decades. What I have found to be an interesting thing to ponder on is how to relate history to what Kristyn terms as "the world of instant gratification" and "today's technological society". It seems that with each passing year the disconnect gap widens. How do we bridge that gap in a meaningful way?

When I go to museums I'm always interested to see how they present information and I always keep a look out for clever exhibits and ways to engage visitors. I, myself, am just not a text reader. I skim and pick out what looks interesting to me, because I find all the words just overwhelming and tedious. It's important for museums to understand and cater to the various types of museum visitors and how they digest information. No one wants to be bored at a museum and unfortunately, museums get that reputation for a reason- unless they really make a creative and innovative effort to counter that idea!

The big question in my mind is: Do we really need the most up-to-date technology to connect today's techy generation with history in an interesting way? My inner history snob wants to say no and you can totally connect people to history by the doing of history - no modern technology needed! Many living history museums put this method to good use, too. But most of the time there is a fusion between old and new exhibit techniques mingled with computery-type technology. I think having history interaction (i.e. doing) can be expensive unless you have awesome, dedicated, and regular volunteers along with creative programming and overseeing of the site. And, of course, not all museums are living history oriented so the options are even less.

Here's my problem with mixing computers and museums though. Every time I go to a museum with "modern technology", especially with my own kids, I almost always see the computers swarmed with children, long waiting lines, and the computers themselves have heavy usage and many times damage. Not to mention that the software is usually slow and seriously out of date. Are the kids really learning anything? Or are they really just drawn to the lights, graphics, and the familiar in a static, boring environment? Is the money that the museum is putting into that technology really beneficial to the visitors' learning? Is it a good long term investment? With the need for constant updating, I'm not so sure. If new technology is used, I think it depends on what type and I feel it needs to follow three criteria: Is it meaningful? Is it durable? Will visitors really learn and remember because of it? (Cost for the museum is always a factor too, but I won't go into that.)

Living History Farms Museum, Iowa
My 6-year-old son was immediately drawn to this colorful, interactive state fair exhibit with life-size people and realistic artwork. (see above) The visitor chooses between different wooden cards with various animals you would show at a state fair. They scan the barcode on the card at one of the computers and information comes up telling what prize the animal would have won and why - as in what characteristics made the animal a prize-winner or not. I thought this was fun and clever and a great use of technology! It had a meaningful purpose. Not to mention, the wear and tear was happening to the wooden cards and not the computer - an important point in durability! 

I asked my son to remind me of the details about this exhibit today and he was able to tell me. Now, that is what museums want! They need memorable exhibits that leave lasting impressions on the visitors, especially children in my opinion. Children need that connection to their history to add some depth and relevance in today's techno-saturated world. (Okay, I'm inching away from my soapbox now!)

Des Moines Science Center, Iowa
Here's another clever, meaningful use of technology in a museum. (I know it's not history-related, but bear with me!) This interactive exhibit allowed kids to get up in front of a green screen and a camera and see how weather forecasters can stand and have the picture change behind them as they explain the weather. Holding up green cloths in front of their bodies cut off limbs and heads. Who wouldn't want to do that?!


Museum of Anthropology at Utah State University

For contrast, here is an example of a standard exhibit with no modern technology whatsoever. (I'm very proud of this exhibit because I and three other students created it! It was my first experience doing an exhibit and I was able to be exhibit team leader. We worked really hard, and I feel very honored that this is a heavily used exhibit at the museum because learning about the Great Basin is required learning for Utah 4th grade students.)

While there is a lot of text in this exhibit, I really designed this exhibit for someone like myself in mind - a non-text reader. I wanted the exhibit to be bright and to stand out with a color no other exhibit in the museum featured - thus the creamy yellow. I'm not from Utah and knew next to nothing about the Great Basin when I started, so there needed to be a BIG map and lots of pictures and artifacts. We used two different colors to emphasize the hunting and gathering sides. Three-dimensional elements with a purpose like the food cache adds visual interest and my favorite feature of the exhibit, besides the cool replicas of the atlatl and scissor snare, are the "floating projectile points". We had a lot of fun drilling holes in plexi-glass and attaching the points using museum wax and fishing line. (I'll have to do a couple separate posts on exhibit construction, because it is totally fun!)

This exhibit has a lot of great visual connection going for it. (I promise I'm not patting myself on the back!) The text might be tedious or intimidating for some, but hopefully the artifacts, photographs, map, and 3-D food cache depiction help tell the story without any reading. A big problem though - it's still behind glass, and therefore has limitations. 

I helped create another exhibit for this museum that focused on textiles and we had a few tactile elements, but those quickly saw wear and tear. 

The USU Museum of Anthropology is pretty low technology. The most they have, that I'm aware of, are audio of the exhibits in Spanish done by some awesome high school students. This museum is under the wing of the university and doesn't have a ton of funding, but they get good responses from the public and do the best with what they have. The best public interaction I've seen at the USU Museum of Anthropology is when they demonstrate atlatl throwing (so much fun!) and when a volunteer comes and demonstrates making projectile points by chipping obsidian (very cool to watch!). People of all ages love human interaction. They want to ask questions and be answered back right away. Finding answers in text is laborious and for some unreasonable. Volunteers and interpreters can leave meaningful, lasting impressions that get talked about for days, weeks or even months and years later. 

Can anyone ever say that a computer has that kind of power? 

Don't misunderstand - computers are important and vital in today's world. But in a museum setting, keeping up with "the latest thing" is a waste of time and money unless it's meaningful, durable, and used in an impressionable way. The future of history depends on museums finding ways to connect history to the current generation to help them remember, and I say it can be done without fancy technology. If a museum is going to use it, do it right!

Have you been to a museum that left a lasting impression? What did they do that made you remember?