Being a small museum, one of the most frequently used means of communication we have are text panels. Placed throughout the museum, they convey various bits of information to our visitors, and are designed to provide greater context for whatever object the visitor is viewing. The text panels also provide specific information about each vehicle in the collection, so that visitors can learn on their own and tour guides and docents do not need to memorize every data point about every piece of apparatus.
Above: One of our older apparatus text panels, with a large block of text and limited technical information.
Of course, one of the dangers with text panels is that they can become outdated. What was common knowledge (even if untrue), acceptable language, or believed to be correct can change over time, and in our case many of our text panels are more than 20 years old – some are even original to the opening of the museum. Some were prepared with a typewriter (remember those?) while others were set and printed using metal type – although that has more to do with a staff member’s hobby than with what was available at the time.
Above: One of the new text panels, with greater technical detail, a color image of a contemporary vehicle, and a short historical narrative to help the visitor have a better understanding of what else was happening during the time the apparatus was operating.
Needless to say, many of our text panels are due for an update, so that’s what we’ve been doing. New research has provided us with additional information about several vehicles in the collection, changed what we knew about others, and generally provided a more complete understanding of some of our larger artifacts. If you haven’t been to the Fire Museum in a while, the next time you visit be on the lookout for some updated displays. (For instance, see if you can find the fire engine that has had its engine changed three times since it was new.) Much of the information is still the same, but we hope that the new look provides a clearer, more current approach to our artifacts and the stories behind them.