How do you know if a museum exhibit is successful? There’s no “like” button underneath each artifact. And you can’t click “share” on an exhibit panel. So, it’s tough to know what people think and feel about an exhibit.
There is one component of our new Colorful Characters exhibit that’s easy for us to assess, though. As a whole, the exhibit discusses the history of Sailors altering their uniforms for fashion or for function. A major fashion trend among sailors was purchasing patches, known as liberty cuffs, from foreign ports. The liberty cuffs were sewed into the underside of the uniform jumper cuffs so they were only visible when the sleeves were rolled up.
Liberty cuffs varied in content. Some were pretty straight forward, featuring American Flags or Neptune. Others highlighted rates such as SeaBees or SNIPES. And many were souvenirs of the ports Sailors visited.
We decided to focus on these souvenir liberty cuffs and ask visitors what a liberty cuff from their hometown might look like. They can design their own liberty cuff and pin it to our magnetic mural map.
Though we’re still trying to assess the whole Colorful Characters exhibit, this portion has been a big success. How do we know? We ran out of pins.
Editorial Note: the Colorful Characters exhibit closed in March 2017.