Museum exhibition showcases CA student research

On April 1, 2024, the Concord Museum welcomed eager Concord Academy families into its galleries for the unveiling of its newest special exhibition, What Makes History? This exhibition explores local historical narratives and their connections to national and international history through the lenses of object collecting, preservation, and storytelling.

The didactics created by students from Kim Frederick’s U.S.: Public History: Tour Guide course provided interpretation of the objects on display. The exhibition features artifacts from the Museum’s collection made in Middlesex County and global treasures collected in Concord, including chairs, textiles, card cases, and timepieces, among other antiquities. What Makes History? invites visitors to ponder the stories behind each artifact and the reasons they were preserved for posterity. 

At the grand opening, Lisa Krassner, the Edward W. Kane Executive Director of the Concord Museum, extended a warm welcome to all attendees and thanked Concord Academy for its ongoing partnership. Associate Curator and Director of Exhibitions Reed Gochberg expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work with CA students. “One of the goals of the project was to think about history itself as a process,” Gochberg said. “We’re thinking here about the objects that are on exhibit and being collected and how we continue to re-interpret them. All of the work you have been doing is so central to that process.”

Frederick thanked the Concord Museum for its help in developing the curriculum and Concord Academy for supporting the initiative, sharing, “It was an incredible opportunity for us.” She commended students’ dedication to the project and for taking on the challenge of distilling history into concise, impactful descriptions. She added that with the state of civic engagement in the country, “telling our stories couldn’t be more important right now.”

Student Micah St. George ’25 was one of many students who relished the public history project. Micah and his class partner Abbie Deng ’25 had the opportunity to write a label for a souvenir fan that advertised the 100th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. They researched the history of the centennial using information from the National Park Service, books on Concord, websites of historic places in Concord, and additional scholarship. 

“As a form of interactivity to get visitors thinking, we decided to ask two questions at the bottom of our label,” Micah said. “We asked readers how they would remember Concord on a fan and what they would commemorate on a fan if they could choose anything. These two questions received a lot of enthusiastic feedback from the museum staff and early audiences!” 

Micah is interested in pursuing exhibit design professionally and recently built an interactive exhibit at the Discovery Museum in Action. “I much prefer physical experiences that challenge museum visitors in more ways than navigating through a touchscreen,” he said. 

As part of the exhibition research process, Gabriel Wexler ’25 and Andrew Antonopoulos ’25 transcribed a notebook about the historic homes of Concord from the 1960s, written by Rita Fitzgerald Conant, a volunteer for the Concord Antiquarian Society and the town of Concord. The notebook featured insights about local buildings’ history and architecture, which she referenced on tours. Many of the buildings on Conant’s tours still exist today, including Bradford House (the Elnathan Jones House) and Phelps House (the William Whiting House) on the Concord Academy campus. 

Gabriel and Andrew were fascinated by the notebook, a new acquisition for the museum. They worked with Jessica Desany Ganong, director of collections, on deciphering it. “Transcribing a notebook from over 60 years ago gave us a glimpse into the past and allowed us to see how Concord’s history was presented back then to how it is presented now,” Andrew said. Gabriel added, “We’ve gained a new appreciation for the skill needed to decode and uncover historical texts.” 

Through the exhibition, students learned to engage with and interpret the public’s understanding of the past. What Makes History? is a testament to the power of collaboration, inquiry, and shared exploration. 

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