Exhibit Updates at Cahokia Mounds

RES is mentioned in the Spring 2019 issue of Cahokian. We are working with staff archaeologist, Bill Iseminger, to upgrade interpretive material based on new archaeological research of Mound 72. 


Illinois Amish Heritage Center

RES fabricated this 59” X 31.75” N-scale model for the Illinois Amish Heritage Center. Three of the six historic buildings have already been moved to the site just east of Arthur, Illinois on Ill. Rte. 133. The model will be used to raise funds to move and restore the buildings and to build a new museum and exhibitions. The museum building lifts up to reveal the proposed floor plan. 

RES Helps Sculptor Win Commission

I am pleased to let you know that I received a call from the Norman, Oklahoma selection committee yesterday advising me that I have been selected for their library commission. They advised me that one of the factors that contributed to selecting me for the commission was the model of the library. They were impressed with its overall quality and ability to let them envision how the sculpture would relate to the library.

Thanks for you(r) good work,

Jim Johnson

email message May 23, 2017

NPS Award

The National Park Service granted the exhibit “The Feel of the Lincoln Home” a 2015 exhibit accessibility award. We are honored to have been the exhibit firm that developed this exhibit with the staff at the Lincoln Home. You can see it in their Visitor Center in Springfield.

The Feel of the Lincoln Home

At the end of May 2015, RES installed a new hands-on exhibit at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. Originally intended for the visually impaired, “The Feel of the Lincoln Home”, installed in the site’s Visitor Center, allows all visitors to touch objects like they will see, but not be able to touch, in the Lincoln Home. It includes Braille Labels for the blind, but its hands-on activities appeal to all audiences. Rick Riccio will be conducting a hands-on workshop at the upcoming IAM conference in Springfield on Thursday, September 24 at 9AM. He will discuss designing for accessibility and durability with the Lincoln Home exhibit as a case study. 

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Old Robotman Feels Close to Home

Jim Meddick’s old comic strip, Robotman, hits pretty close to home for Gary and me after working on the diorama at Cahokia Mounds for the past year. Maybe they should add some new postcards in their gift shop, too.

Fabricating plants for the Wetlands and Waterways diorama

The fabrication of plants plays a major role in making most dioramas look as realistic as possible. Sometimes you can find good representations of plants through artificial plant companies. But most of the time  you will have to make modifications to some part of the plant depending on the particular requirements of your diorama. In other cases where no artificial specimen is available, you will have to make the plant from scratch. Although we are employing several techniques for the diorama in the Cahokia Mounds exhibit, “Wetlands and Waterways: The Key to Cahokia”, we are having some success with a method that diorama artist, Gary Hoyle, mentioned in his blog. He suggested making plant leaves out of paper. So, we start by collecting specimens from nature. We then scan multiple leaf types from each specimen. I scan the top side and then make a copy and flip and lighten the image for the underside.  I apply positional mounting adhesive (PMA) to one side. Then before I line up the other side, I insert a wire down the middle of each leaf to attach to the main stem. 

The other problem we had to solve was the issue of aging. Since paper tends to yellow and dye inks tend to fade over time, we’ve had to use paper and inks that are archival quality. Epson makes several lines of printers that use pigment inks which have been tested to last for decades without fading. Epson also makes a line of Fine Art papers that are acid-free and made of 100% cotton. They come in smooth or textured and bright white or natural. We are still experimenting to determine which papers work best for each leaf type. Dioramas will always be labor-inntensive endeavors, but the level of realism and the longevity achieved with this method, makes it a viable option to other plant fabrication techniques.  

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Artificial milkweed Leaves 

Exhibit Proposal Form

Where do ideas for new exhibitions come from? One obvious answer is the museum planning team. Normally composed of administrators, designers, educators, and subject specialists (curators), they would be the logical group to generate ideas about how the collections should be interpreted. Ideas for exhibition may also come about in other ways. Growth in the collections or anticipation of future growth, can suggest exhibit topics. New discoveries through research or archaeological excavations may suggest ideas. An individual’s inspiration or even visitor suggestions may be found worth pursuing. In fact, it’s not important where the exhibition ideas come from. Take advantage of any and all inspired ideas no matter how they are generated. The important thing is that museums apply some form of criteria to assess the feasibility of the idea. Many museums use an exhibit proposal form as an initial screening device and as a way to prioritize a number of exhibit ideas. I have developed the following exhibit proposal form based on publications and examples from various museums. The criteria are relevant to most museums and types of exhibitions. Feel free to use it for your institution or rework it for your particular situation.

Exhibit Proposal Form

Exhibit Policy

It’s hard to imagine a museum leader today that does not acknowledge the importance of core documents like a mission statement or a collections policy. But you would be much more likely to find a museum that lacks a formal exhibition policy. Even the American Alliance of Museum’s list of Core Documents does not include an exhibition policy. Considering the amount of resources (time, staff, and money) allocated to producing and hosting exhibitions, this is a glaring omission, especially when you consider that for most visitors, the exhibitions are the only aspect of the museum they ever have contact with.

 After viewing a few exhibition policies online, I realize that there is very little standardization. Some museums include information that belongs in other documents (e.g. how to handle objects on loan for exhibits) or is too detailed, obvious, or restrictive to be useful in a general exhibition policy (no loan objects will ever be for sale or a loan will never exceed a certain length of time).

 This PDF file covers seven factors to include in an exhibition policy, namely, subject matter, geographic parameters, space factor, priorities, goals, visitors, and function. I hope you find it useful.

Download PDF of Exhibit Policy Guidelines

Old Pascua Museum and Cultural Center

My graduate school classmate at the University of Arizona, Ernesto Quiroga, invited me to the grand opening on August 2 of the Old Pascua Museum and Cultural Center in Tucson, Arizona. Located in the original Pascua Yaqui (Yoeme) community and built in 1926, the OPMCC also known as the Matus/Meza House, served as the residence of one of Pascua’s earliest settlers. Ernesto’s brother, Guillermo Quiroga, serves as the museum director. He had this to say about the museum, “The Old Pascua Museum is an important step in honoring the elders who had worked and sacrificed so much for us to be able to see things like this become a reality. Now the Old Pascua community will have a place to share their histories and memories with the youth and others that love our culture and traditions.” Guillermo and many others worked hard to create the OPMCC, and the community should be proud of their accomplishments.


Not all Indians, however, share that love of museums, especially given the past record of museums and Indian relations. Even my friend Ernesto, who ran the Indian Studies program at Pima County Community College until his retirement three years ago, had some misgivings. Why, he asked, does a tribe like the Yoeme, with such rich cultural traditions, need a museum? Museums are for those tribes that have lost their traditions, not the Yoeme. His sentiment made me think of a story I read in Roger Welsch’s book, It’s Not the End of the Earth, but You Can See It from Here. Welsch asked an old Lakota medicine man, Fool Bull, if he was passing along his knowledge of plants to young Lakota or if he was writing things down. “No, Roger,” he said, “I’m not writing them down and I’m not teaching them to anyone.” Welsh pleaded with Fool Bull that his knowledge is like a treasure, and if he didn’t do something to preserve what he knows, it will be lost. Fool Bull just laughed and then replied, “If a treasure is lost, it isn’t gone. It’s still there, where it has always been. It just so happens that at the moment no one knows where its place is. The knowledge isn’t lost. We are. The truth never sleeps.” Then he gave an example. “If everyone were to forget for a moment that aspirin cures a headache, it doesn’t mean that aspirin no longer cures headaches. Aspirin would still cure headache if we knew about it but for a moment we don’t know about it– just as it was when we had the willow but didn’t know about the willow.” (Aspirin comes from salicin found in the inner bark of the willow).

 Like Guillermo said, the Yoeme elder’s hard work made the museum possible. Maybe the Yoeme still know about aspirin, but the museum is a physical reminder that they will never forget about aspirin. Maybe the Yoeme do not yet have a clear vision of what the museum will become, but it is an important step and another tool for carrying those traditions into the future by whatever means they see fit.

© Riccio Exhibit Services, LLC 2013