If You Love Your Exhibit, Set it Free: Skirting Issues of Space and Time with Digital Projects

Felicia Wivchar, U.S. House of Representatives, USA

In 2017, the Office of Art and Archives, U.S. House of Representatives created an exhibition in the U.S. Capitol, The First Women in Congress, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Jeannette Rankin’s arrival as the first woman to serve in Congress. The exhibition tells Rankin’s story, highlighting her work and that of the ground-breaking women legislators following her. This exhibition has high visibility and relatability – to people who happen to be visiting or working in the Capitol. To both broaden the potential audience beyond the Congressional community and deepen the level of information provided, we created a digital counterpart to live in the Exhibitions on our website, history.house.gov . Transferring the political context of The First Women in Congress from the physical to the virtual sphere was no easy task. We broke with the standard format of our website – – and created a non-narrative, object-directed digital exhibit. The objects serve as jumping-off points from which to explore important legislative issues, and the Representative’s engagement with them, in greater depth and within more specific contexts. This demonstration will show how we both struggled and adapted to a text-heavy website template in order to expand on the physical exhibit within this format, taking advantage of the freedom from narrative space and conservation issues offered by a digital format.

National Archives, American’s Founding Documents: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration
Rizzo, Mary. “5 Amazing Digital Collections for Cultural Historians from the NY Public Library” HNN History News Network. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161831.
New York Historical Society, online exhibitions: Nation at the Crossroads: http://www.nyhistory.org/web/crossroads/prelude.html#/?loc=0