Over the past five months, the Presidential Site’s 2018 Curatorial Fellow Emily Hanawalt has been developing our Presidential Humor exhibit. In less than a week, Hanawalt will showcase her work as a part of the New Century Curator Initiative, a partnership between the Presidential Site and IUPUI’s Museum Studies program. The exhibit will include political campaign items, paraphernalia, toys, pet-related items and clothing to demonstrate how humor has been used by candidates and political foes alike. See what Hanawalt has to say about her curatorial journey and the creation of her upcoming exhibit.
Q: What inspired you to get into curatorial work?
A: My work researching for exhibitions at the Miami County Museum in Peru, Indiana. While searching through county history to find stories that people today could relate to, I became interested in connecting people to those histories. After doing research and asking some museum professionals, I came to the conclusion that curatorial work was something that I would like to study and do in my future career.
Q: As a part of our New Century Curator program, you have developed an exhibit of your own. Where did the idea of “Presidential Humor” come from?
A: The idea of “Presidential Humor” was given to me by the staff at the Presidential Site. It is a part of a campaign to increase relevance to the public and bring levity to the divisive political climate we know live in. From the beginning, I was asked to focus on funny anecdotes and quotes from the presidents. Once given this set of parameters, I was able to build the exhibit from there with the guidance of Jennifer Capps, vice president of curatorship and exhibition at the Presidential Site.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of developing the Presidential Humor exhibit?
A: The most challenging aspect of this exhibit has been ensuring that all of the artists of the works in the exhibit are being credited and that copyright law is being followed. This exhibit is very visual with all of the cartoons, which took a lot of work on the back end. Contacting the artists has been fun, though. Many of them are thrilled that their work will be featured in an exhibition.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect?
A: I think that the most rewarding part of this exhibition is yet to come. I think that once everything is all put up on the walls and all the objects are positioned in their cases and my vision for the exhibit is realized, I will feel truly accomplished. The best reward will be seeing visitors; faces and hearing their laughter as they venture through the exhibit.
Q: What are you most looking forward to on grand opening night?
A: Seeing my friends’ and family’s reactions to the exhibit. I have been pretty quiet about it’s development and I hope that they are impressed when they come to opening night. Showcasing my work for a large audience is very exciting as well.
Q: What can visitors expect to see?
A: Visitors can expect to see both 2-D and 3-D humorous objects related to presidents, and to hear and read hilarious anecdotes about their country’s leaders. Visitors will see how political cartoons have changed through the ages and learn a bit of history about them. They will also see how cartoons have been used as a tool to be critical about leaders and concepts throughout history.
Q: What do you hope visitors gain from your exhibit?
A: I hope visitors gain perspective from this exhibit and see the humanity in our leaders. I also hope they see how political cartoons in a democratic society can make a huge impact on how citizenry view leaders. The grand opening of the exhibit will take place Jan. 24, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided and all are welcome to attend. Register here. Share your favorite parts of the exhibit with us on social media using the hashtag #PresidentialHumor.
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Due to inclement weather, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site will be closed for tours on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
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