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Applied history assignment: Museum display panel

40% marks for this module will be obtained through an 'applied' history assignment based on a museum-style display panel on a topic relating to Atlantic slavery, its consequences, ending and legacies (e.g. ‘Rebellion and resistance’; ‘West African societies’; ‘Life on the plantation’; ‘Women and slavery’; 'Caribbean slavery and the British economy' etc.). The panel will include images and around 1000 words of text (titles, image captions and other content). It will be accompanied by an essay of around 2000 words explaining how and why the panel was designed. The maximum total for both pieces is 3000 words.

This display panel will be the work of each individual (i.e. not group work) on a topic chosen by you. The support for this task will include visits to real museums, an opportunity to present draft displays and receive feedback, and guidance from me.

Outline of tasks (with suggested schedule)

  1. By start of Term 2 - select topic; find and read key scholarship; identify the main points or debates that you want to explain to the audience; identify possible images to use.
  2. Term 2, week 2 - briefly present panel title and summary (approximately 50 words) in 'Museums' seminar.
  3. Term 2, week 3 - observe and take notes on real examples of museum display panels during London fieldtrip. (I will also speak to each of you individually during the day about your ideas.)
  4. Term 2, week 5 - present a draft of the panel display in class; respond to questions; receive feedback from tutor and fellow students.
  5. Term 2, week 7 - submit panel display and accompanying essay.

Display panel

The display panel should consist of the following:

  • Main heading
  • Introductory paragraph that draws in the audience and provides an overview of the topic (approximately 50 words)
  • Main body of text setting out the topic, divided into paragraphs. You may also wish to include sub-headings to separate different sections. This should total approximately 500 words, with each paragraph no more than 100 words.
  • 4-6 images, which could be illustrations; reproductions of physical objects; maps; graphs; tables etc. These images could be of historical sources or be present-day items that you have located or even created yourself. So, for example, the display could include an eighteenth-century map of the Caribbean or a modern map of the region – or both! All images must be accompanied by…
    • The title of the image, including the source
    • A label which relays some information connecting the image to the broader themes of the display panel (approximately 50 words per caption, not including the title and source of the image)
  • Other things you might include in your display panel:
    • Quotations from historical sources
    • Questions for the audience to consider
    • Other design features, e.g. background images
    • Due to the format of the assessment, you won’t be able to include videos, audio content, interactive displays etc. You could explain how you might use them in the accompanying essay, however.

Technical specifications

  • A4 – but design it to be blown up to A2
  • Images resolution of 220dpi minimum
  • Captions must include source information
  • The text must be English, though you could quote from other languages

How to include images

Here is an example of how to include an image. I have added some comments in square brackets.

Private of the 5th WIR

A Private of the 5th West India Regiment, 1812
J. C. Stadler [This is the title of the image, including who created it.]

Almost all of the Regiments’ ordinary soldiers were of African origin, though their officers were white and usually British. Until the 1850s, the soldiers wore the same basic uniform as regular British infantrymen. Caribbean planters feared that the presence of black men in redcoats might undermine slavery. [This is the caption.]

National Army Museum [This is source of the image.]

Accompanying essay

The display panel must be accompanied by an essay (2000 words maximum) that explains the thinking behind the content and design. You are welcome to write this in the first-person ('My intention here was to...'; 'Based on criticisms of existing museums, I decided to...') if you wish. You should discuss:

  • target audience(s) and how this was reflected in the design;
  • the key academic points or debates that you sought to convey to the audience through the display panel, as well as the challenges of doing so and how you sought to overcome them;
  • how the display panel was informed by and/or responded to academic debates about slavery and museums;
  • how the display panel was drew on - or rejected - ideas from real museums;
  • use of language and terminology;
  • choice of images (and perhaps those that were rejected);
  • any other visual or textual design choices you made;
  • you could also use the essay to provide a wider context, e.g. other panels you might like to include if this was part of a larger exhibition;
  • you are welcome to include (and annotate) images from your display panel in the essay if you want to draw attention to specific design features;
  • you may also wish to use the essay reflect critically on the display panel.