How to Create a Historical Exhibit

An exhibit is a visual representation of your research and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history. The analysis and interpretation of your topic must be clear and evident to the viewer. Labels and captions should be used creatively with visual images and objects to enhance the message of your exhibit.



How is an Exhibit Different from Other Categories?

The exhibit category is three dimensional and is displayed on a physical structure.  Exhibits use color, images, documents, objects, graphics, and design, as well as words, to tell your story.  Exhibits can be interactive experiences by asking viewers to play music,  look at a video, or open a door or window to see more documents or photos.

Getting Started
  • Research the topic first. Do your secondary research first. Reading secondary resources will help you understand your subject more completely, point you to primary sources, and assist you in selecting the important points you want to investigate and the key questions you want to ask.
  • Select items to put on the exhibit. You won’t be able to use all the materials you find while doing your research.  As you think about what to put on the exhibit, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Does the item fit in with the NHD theme and the theme of your exhibit?
    • Does the item advance the story you are trying to tell?
    • Is the document you are thinking of displaying too long or too wordy?  Is it easy to read and understand? Will it take up too much space on your exhibit?
    • Is the item visually interesting?
    • What images best tell your story?
    • Do you want to include artifacts in your exhibit?
    • Will your exhibit contain audiovisual materials?
  • Prepare the script. Writing your titles, text, and labels is often referred to as writing the script. Like all good writing, your exhibit script needs to be grammatically correct, use good sentence structure, make wise word choices, and contain no spelling errors.  You should expect to write several drafts.  Exhibit labels are brief, so they need to be clear and concise.

Exhibit Rules Verification Sheet– This check-off sheet will guide you as you review your entry to make sure you have followed NHD rules for the Exhibit category.