Building the Legacy

Post by Amanda McGuire, Museum Intern

Intern Amanda McGuire arranges artifacts in a case for the Legacy Gallery
Intern Amanda McGuire arranges artifacts in a case for the Legacy Gallery

I started an internship here in November to research, write, and fabricate an exhibit about Lew Wallace’s legacy through the various productions of Ben-Hur for the Legacy Gallery in the mechanical room of the Study. While I have worked on small parts of exhibits before, this is the first exhibit I have researched, designed, fabricated, and installed from start to finish.

Research and Design

It was a learning process with plans that changed almost on a daily basis. I started by reading everything the museum had about Ben-Hur and turning that research into seven short labels about the evolution of the novel. Then I chose artifacts and figured out how everything would fit together.

It was like doing a puzzle without the picture to use as a guide. I purchased mounts for the smaller artifacts with grant funds. I also made a form that would support the Roman soldier’s costume from the 1959 Ben-Hur film. This exercised my carpentry and sewing skills as well as my experience handling artifacts.

Installing the Legacy Gallery

During the week of exhibit installation, the design changed at least once a day in order to fit all of the pieces together, but I think the end result accomplishes what was planned. The legacy of Ben-Hur is told in one space instead of being spread throughout the Study.

The artifacts – especially the costume and sandals – are properly supported so they can survive for many more generations of visitors to see. This project also allows the Study to return more to what it looked like when Lew was using it.

This was a great experience for me and I loved every step of it. Through this project, I realized that museum work changes regularly with unforeseen complications. When difficulties arose, I worked by myself and with the staff to overcome them.

I definitely learned that Ben-Hur was more than just a movie with a chariot race. I’m hoping visitors will learn about the many ways Ben-Hur impacted the world.

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