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C.V. Starr Center for the


Study of the American Experience

Handle With Care


Date: January 23, 2014
Phaedra Scott ’14 discovers the complexities of displaying the nation’s historical documents at the National Constitution Museum.

As an aspiring dramaturg—someone who researches the history and context of a dramatic production—Phaedra Scott ’14 sees her two majors, drama and history, as intricately entwined. Her belief in that connection deepened last summer when she workedat the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia as a 2013 Comegys Bight Fellow.

“I saw so many parallels between the collaborative work of creating a museum exhibit and the work I’ve done in the theater,” she says. “The process of creating an exhibit takes three to five years and is truly impressive.”

Scott was immediately assigned to research two possible future exhibits, one on justice and one on protest or dissent in America. What kind of meaningful and accessible exhibit might she create? She had to present her ideas at a staff meeting at the end of her first week.

“I was incredibly nervous at first, but as I continued I gained more confidence in what I was presenting,” she says. “The team was so open—they took me seriously and really listened. The support was incredible.”

Scott also spent a lot of time working on a Bill of Rights exhibit opening at the Constitution Center next fall. She helped the museum registrar research artifacts that might have been used by some of the lesser known delegates. The initial work was online, but she also had to contact people at other museums to ask about borrowing artifacts and was even able to tour places like neighboring Independence Hall and Winterthur in Delaware, not only to examine the artifacts, but for inspiration.

She also learned about borrowing rare documents, like the New York Public Library’s original copy of the Bill of Rights. “Casing documents is a field in itself,” she says. “Not only did the document have to be kept in certain light conditions, its casing had to be bullet-proof, missile-proof, tested under Hurricane Sandy conditions and sealed in argon gas.”


Though Scott is looking at graduate programs in dramaturgy, she was inspired by her stint at the Constitution Center to also consider museum studies, including the Winterthur/University of Delaware Masters Program in American Material Culture. “The door,” she says, “is wide open.”

 

Last modified on Feb. 7th at 11:34am by Jean Wortman.