Writing the Labels

Heather Duquette, Medical Biology major/ History minor, 2013

This week in Museums & Public History we started to write the precursor to the labels for our Civil War exhibit. At the beginning of the semester we were informed that 3-5 page research papers would have to be trimmed down, to about a paragraph in length. As our teachers keep repeating “This is the hardest paragraph you will ever write.” As I sat writing my paper, on the relatively narrow subject of remembering the war, I began to wonder how others would succeed in writing theirs. Some of the topics for this exhibit are extremely broad, focusing on medicine, transportation, triggers, or economy leading up to, or during the war. Then I began to worry, is it possible to fully explain the Civil War using John Haley’s voice? Haley’s diary is an edited book filling up roughly three hundred pages, edited first by Haley himself, and then by Ruth Silliker. From these three hundred pages we chose topics pertaining to the Civil War, and scoured the text looking for Haley’s voice on the subject. These paragraphs must not only completely encompass the research from the Civil War, but must also catch and keep the visitors attention. I truly see now, why the exhibit labels for John Haley’s Civil War will be the hardest paragraphs anyone in our group will ever write.

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