Project 5½: Exhibit Display

Note: This is a major assignment and portfolio piece for Professor McGuire’s Composition II course. It is a piece for public presentation and a follow-up to an ethnographic, field-work project.


We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire, the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.     — Maria Mitchell

A Shared Story of Service via Poster Session

Soon your service learning fieldwork project will come to a close. You will have completed your service (for now), your final site visit, your last observation, and one last interview. I hope the experience of doing this project is proving to be a valuable one for you. The result, I hope, will not just be an excellent ethnographic report but also be a new way of seeing and of thinking. I hope that through this project you are becoming more aware of the world around you and more aware of your own thinking as well. I hope that you understand the power you have to make our world a little better place for those we share it with—that what you do or choose not to do makes a significant difference. Also I hope that you have come to appreciate more, in some small way, the diversity our world has to offer—to know that what may seem strange to us or to others isn’t necessarily lesser, but just different. And, perhaps, we can learn and benefit from that difference. Even if that difference is one that we do not value or one that offends our sensibilities, at least we will have learned first to seek understanding before casting our judgment. To me this is the most important lesson.

So, assuming that through this project you have gained insight on the people, places, and issues you studied, we would all be remiss if we did not seize the opportunity to share the knowledge we have gained through this experience with others. That is why we will end this project with one final step—an exhibit of our work which will take place at the service learning/volunteer fair we are hosting soon.

What to Expect at the Event

While the details of this service learning/volunteer fair are still developing (and you are helping with that), you can be sure to expect a few things. Each service learning team will showcase their work with a polished and professional exhibit/poster display. Each group will be given table space on which to setup their displays. The displays will be built collaboratively by each team, i.e. one display per group. At or adjacent (or nearby) to your display table, you will be accompanied by a representative of the organization you worked with for your service learning project—assuming they are able to come to the event. Together you will offer information about the service experience and opportunities offered through the organization to attendees of the fair.

In addition to the poster session where you will be showcasing your service learning work, the event will also include featured or “spotlight” speakers, may offer opportunity for you to speak in front of an audience, and will include materials created by some students from other courses on campus. Students, faculty, administrators, professional staff, and community members are all invited to attend the event. Expect a significant audience, as it is being heavily marketed both at the college and within the community. Please also invite your friends and family to come. You’ve done hard work this semester, so this is a time to celebrate and share it with the people you love.

Putting Together Your Exhibit Display

An exhibit display is largely a visual composition; it is something that can stand alone and can communicate to the viewer its message in a concise yet powerful manner with just a few minutes of observation. So, when visitors walk by your display table during the fair, they should be drawn in—their interest should be captured in a meaningful way—and they should quickly come to understand key aspects of the service learning experience you had and the most significant points of insight you gained from your study. Your display must include a freestanding display board. The display board and your table might include some of the following. These are just possibilities and examples, the exact composition of your overall exhibit is, of course, up to you. Be creative. Be effective. Capture and convey the story.

Your exhibit display (table and poster) might contain the following:

  • photographs from the field
  • key quotes from informants that offer insight on the people, place, and/or issue you studied
  • samples of field artifacts with labels and brief explanations of the significance
  • samples of field notes
  • diagrams/maps of space
  • the ethnographic report itself
  • samples of information artifacts or secondary sources
  • audio or video recordings from the field

Additional resources to help:

Talking Points

While your exhibit is not an oral presentation necessarily, you will still have to do a little talking. As attendees make their way around the room on exhibit day, they will most certainly stop at your display and ask some questions. They may ask some specific questions based on what you have displayed, or they may ask something as general as “What did you learn from your study?” You should be prepared to answer these questions and to talk informally about your project. Even though the talking will be informal, it still must be characterized by substance and specificity. I suggest you have your “talking points” prepared so you can easily communicate key experiences, moments of insight, and conclusions from your study. Maybe have an “elevator speech” ready, where you can give an overview of the project experience in about the time it would take to ride on an elevator with someone (30 seconds or so).

How this Assignment Will Be Assessed

Your full participation in this poster session is a grading contract requirement. Failure to be present and to participate here may result in a full break of our grading contract and significantly hamper your course grade. Grading aside, this is your chance to really shine as serious researchers and to showcase your professional skills. Your work on the exhibit will certainly be judged by the many who attend this event. Their judgment will be based on how effectively your display communicates your project experience, how effectively it presents insight on the subculture you studied, the poise with which you present yourself while answering the questions asked of you, and the depth of knowledge you demonstrate overall in both your visual display and your verbal performance. Produce your very best work here—something you and your entire team can be proud of.

Due Dates and Other Details

In order to create the most professional, polished showcase during our Act Out event, I am asking that your group deliver and set-up your display in the library lounge area some time Monday, April 29th between 2:30 and 5:00p. (Talk to me if this poses an insurmountable problem for you.) I will be in the library space at this time, preparing, setting up tables, and so forth. Look for me and/or find the table marked with your group’s number and/or organization name. Setup your display there. The current plan is to have two displays per six-foot table.

The service learning/volunteer fair is scheduled to run April 30 from 9:30 to 2:00 and May 1 from 1:00 to 3:00. You and your team must be present during the time our class would normally be meeting, but you are welcomed and encouraged to attend throughout the entire fair, as well. Please leave your projects in place for people to enjoy until the end of the fair. You can pick up your project after 3:00p on May 1. If you cannot pick it up right at 3:00, they will be stored either in my office or in Troy Swanson’s office (in the library) for you to pick up as soon as possible.