'Unexhibited'

pair of CV Museum exhibits closing after two decades

Taylor Kuether, photos by Andrea Paulseth

SUPER MODEL! This model shows the layout of a forthcoming Chippewa Valley Museum Exhibit, “Intersections,” that will open next July.
SUPER MODEL! This model shows the layout of a forthcoming Chippewa Valley Museum Exhibit, “Intersections,” that will open next July.

Starting in 1991, when visitors have entered the Chippewa Valley Museum in Carson Park and looked to their left, they have seen the long-running “Paths of the People” exhibit. After winding through that display, visitors have found themselves at “Settlement and Survival,” which opened in 1992. But those exhibits will end their two-decade runs on Nov. 18.

“The lifespan of a museum exhibit is only meant to be about 15 years,” said Chippewa Valley Museum docent and retired Longfellow Elementary School teacher Jan Kosower. “People have loved them, but it’s time for a change.”
The two exhibits will be recreated in a single more modern exhibit titled “Intersections.” Currently, “Paths of the People” explores Native American history in the Chippewa Valley region from the 1700s to “the present day” (or, more accurately, the 1990s when the exhibit opened). Focusing namely on the Ojibwe tribe, the exhibit moves through time, offering interactive maps, artifacts, and a replica of a traditional wigwam for museumgoers to enjoy.

“Settlement and Survival” traces the settlement of the Chippewa Valley from its logging days. With relics including an original Walters Beer bottle and copies of the area’s three original newspapers – The Daily Leader, Der Herold (for German readers), and Reform, (for Norwegian readers) – the exhibit just feels like Eau Claire. Walking through it, visitors get an almost warm-and-fuzzy sense of nostalgia for the Chippewa Valley.

“We want to make the experience more human, more individual, more personal.” – Carrie Ronnander, Chippewa Valley Museum, on the forthcoming exhibit, 'Intersections'

Docent Paula Utphall, also a retired Longfellow Elementary School teacher, feels the same way. “We get attached to them,” Utphall said of the exhibits. “We teach it, and we get attached to it.” Utphall, who guides school tours through the “Settlement and Survival” exhibit, said the exhibit is her personal favorite.

She is looking forward to the new “Intersections” exhibit, which will merge the two existing exhibits into one larger exhibit and include new topics such as tourism, growth, and change. Visitors will walk along a painted “path” of the Chippewa River to navigate the exhibit in chronological historical order.

Carrie Ronnander, museum curator, said the new exhibit will better engage with audiences. “We’re closing them because they’ve been up for a long time and there are new ways to engage audiences that have been developed over the past two decades,” Ronnander said. “We’ll braid together the two stories in ‘Intersections.’ ”
Ronnander said the new exhibit will include more multimedia, audio, and visual elements. “There will be more hands-on activities for all ages but specifically for younger age groups, more storytelling,” Ronnander said. “We want to make theexperience more human, more individual, more personal.”

The closing exhibits are just two of the museum’s six. Ronnander said the most popular exhibit is probably “Farm Life,” which will remain open along with the rest of the museum during the year-long construction of “Intersections.”

“I think the current exhibits still tell very good stories, the information they have to share is still important and still relevant,” Ronnander said. “I’m looking forward to presenting it differently.”

“Paths of the People” and “Settlement and Survival” will close Nov. 18. “Intersections” will open July 4, 2014, with additional activities and a final section being added in fall 2014. To learn more, visit cvmuseum.com.

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