History Organizations Gathering Awards

The American Alliance of Museums announced the winners of its 2013 Museum Publications Design Competition, which identifies the best in graphic design in fifteen different categories.  This is a juried competition and we send our congratulations to all, but especially to (given the bias of this blog):

  • Drake Well Museum for their journal, Oilfield
  • Kentucky Historical Society for educational resources.
  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum for their 2011-12 annual report
  • Museum of Flight (Seattle) for their 2011 annual report
  • Museum of the City of New York for the journal, City Courant
  • National Archives for their Girl Scout Welcome Activity Badge Cards
  • Peabody Essex Museum for their members magazine, Connections
  • Peabody Essex Museum for invitations to the Cultural Conversation and Ansel Adams events
  • Peabody Essex Museum for educational resources
  • Shaker Museum (Mount Lebanon) for the 2012/13 annual journal

I love good design and I applaud all the winners.  One thing about design contests, however, is that they’re only about design–there’s no measure of their effectiveness.  A better test of design is not the subjective judgement of a handful of jurors, but whether it met its goals–the fundraising appeal raised money, membership brochures attracted more members, and magazines were read and remembered.  Secondly, history and science museums can design beautiful publications but somehow I get the sneaking suspicion that art museums (being in the business of design and aesthetics) have a huge advantage.  That seems to be played out in the list of awards, which were overwhelmingly dominated by art museums.  Do art museums need their own category so we can see the good work happening in other types of museums?

AAM also announced its MUSE Award winners, which include audio tours by Maritime Gloucester and the National Museum of American History; interactive kiosks at the History Colorado Center; interactive exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum; multimedia presentations at the Tenement Museum, and a video by the New-York Historical Society.  Regretfully, the announcement only provides links to the institutions, not to the projects themselves, so you’ll have to do some digging elsewhere to see them in action.  This competition seems to be juried, but there’s no identification of the jurors.

AAM also announced the winners in the Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing Competition,    which included:

  • “A Place Called Poarch” by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Museum
  • “Over the Mountain to Independence” by the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail Visitor Center
  • “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” at the National Constitution Center
  • “Denver A to Z” at the History Colorado Center.

One of the real benefits to the field is that award announcement includes both photos and text from the exhibit labels, the target audiences, and the comments from the jurors (most are very helpful in improving your work in writing labels).

Finally, the American Association for State and Local History announced its 2013 Leadership in History Awards.  Its 88 recipients are far too numerous to list here, but a few are worth mentioning because they received History in Progress Awards.  These projects are highly inspirational, exhibit exceptional scholarship, or are exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness:

The nomination process includes an application and a letter of recommendation from an independent history or museum professional, and is reviewed at both the state and national levels, so it’s a particularly complex process that vets the projects several ways before an award is given.

So lots of awards which provides ample evidence for the good work happening in the history field, as well as inspiration for your projects.  And if you develop a great project, be sure to submit it for an award!

1 thought on “History Organizations Gathering Awards

  1. thehistorylist

    Nice of you to list these. I agree completely with your observation about the more important yardstick for recognizing the design of materials: Whether it achieved its goal. It would also be nice if, at a minimum, there were photos/scans of the materials and additional information that described the goals and the results.


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