Voices of Wartime explored how a global conflict affected the everyday lives of those living in the small, isolated mining community of Telluride, Colorado. The exhibit included new research, two new museum publications, collaborations with new community organizations and local businesses, new oral histories, innovative interpretive displays, and local and national artifact loans.
Voices of Wartime was designed to be accessible to a broad audience, and designed with levels of possible engagement. This strategy used layers of interpretative text with each exhibit station, as well as compartmentalized audio and visual displays showing newsreels and period film footage along with radio broadcasts and newspapers. The museum utilized its Smithsonian affiliate status to partner with two other affiliates, the National World War II Museum and the Chinese American Museum, for artifact loans that greatly enhanced the exhibit’s capacity to tell this story.
The process of this exhibit’s development, from research and evaluation to public outreach and programming, had a significant impact on the museum as an institution. They now approach their annual exhibit projects holistically by considering how different components of the museum can work together to help interpret and engage the public, and have added a permanent full-time staff position to work with exhibits and programming. Most tangibly, the signature event for the exhibit, An Evening with Ken Burns, has become an annual event.
The exhibit served as a foundation for the most comprehensive and popular public programs at the museum to date, each of which was specifically designed to accompany and expand upon the scholarship and stories captured in the exhibit for diverse audiences. These programs also served as an invaluable catalyst for generating community discussion around the legacy of World War II in Colorado, including the ethical and environmental impacts of uranium mining, the history of race and legal identity for Japanese Americans and Hispanic families in post-war Colorado, and issues facing veterans of all conflicts and their families.