Author: Kristyn Halbig-Ziehm
Source: Ozaukee Press
June 9, 2016
Wisconsin Historical Society honors Port museum for its commercial fishing exhibit
The Port Exploreum has earned accolades from the Wisconsin Historical Society for its current exhibit, “Nothin’ But Nets: The Legacy of Commercial Fishing in Port Washington.”
The museum has received the 2016 Museum Exhibit Award for institutions with an annual operating budget of more than $50,000.expLG
“This validates what we’re trying to do,” said Wayne Chrusciel, executive director of the Port Washington Historical Society, which runs the Exploreum. “The award is recongition that we’re on the right path.”
Chrusciel credited the work of Matt Foss, who curated the exhibit, and Rick Smith, who provided a great deal of insight into the commercial fishing industry, with helping make the exhibit a success.
“Matt did the bones of it, but Rich brought it to life,” he said. “We woud not have won the award and had the impact we have without the help of Rick and Matt.”
Mike Hollander, a member of the exhibit award committee and director of the Wisconsin History Museum, said five factors are used in determining the award winner — the exhibit’s reach, whether the content is reliable and accurate, if the conservation of materials is appropriate, whether a clear message is communicated and if the design of the exhibit enhances and supports the message.
“It was solid across the board,” Hollander said of the exhibit. “It has a good range of history that all comes from reliable sources. It comunicates the message well and focuses the storyline, putting Port Washington’s history as a commercial fishing port into context.”
Jeff Morgan, president of the Port Historical Society, said the award is a recognition of the quality of the exhibit and adds credibility to the work done at the Exploreum.
“It’s significant recognition of the high quality and professional nature of the exhibit by a small, local historical society,” Morgan said. “I think it will raise our profile with the Wisconsin Historical Society. It’s nice to know we’re on their radar.”
Morgan said the exhibit has broad-based appeal, noting the museum’s first exhibit on local businessman and Green Bay Packers’ photographer Vernon Biever was “wonderful and cool, but niche.”
“This exhibit will appeal to anyone interested in history, interested in fishing,” he said. “It’s not only historically significant from a local perspective, but from a Great Lakes perspective as well.
“As someone who has grown up here and lived with it (commercial fishing), you listen to some of those oral histories and you think, ‘I know those people.’ This award is really a great honor and recognition of those families.
“And this is a way to make those stories relevant to people today.”
But, Chrusciel said, the award isn’t the only reward the museum has garnered.
“The reaction of the people coming in to visit the exhibit has been incredible,” he said.
Chrusciel recalled one woman who came in and was visibly moved by the exhibit, leading him over to show him the name of her grandfather, who had helped to save several people from the fierce lake waters when the Senator sank off Port’s shore in 1915.
“That drove home to me the fact we have been successful in connecting people to the history of the city.”
Many of those who have visited the exhibit so far are locals, Chrusciel said.
“I’m excited to see the reaction of people from outside the area this summer as they see this come to life,” he said.
“Nothin’ But Nets” will be the featured exhibit through the summer. In fall, the Exploreum will host a new exhibit, this one curated by Sarah Smith and focusing on shipwrecks in the area.
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