This museum cleverly highlights how personal stories presented in exhibitions can cause visitors to interact with these individuals’ journeys more than if they were just told the facts and figures of an event.
Right at the beginning of the museum you can choose one of five individuals whose story you can follow on their gold rush journey. This is really interesting as at each station throughout the exhibition you become more invested in the individual who you are following, with the desire to know what happens next drawing you though the exhibition.
The overall layout of the space is very well done. It’s a free entry museum but the space looks just as professional and well finished as any of the paid Seattle museums that I have seen. You walk through the gates into 1897 and one of the first things you see is a newspaper stand that, if you get close enough, starts to shout out headlines in the style of a street paper seller. I enjoyed little detailed elements like this, where visual aspects and sounds are combined to create a more interactive display.
The objects that are on display are linked to the people whose journeys you are following. For example the diary, camera and travel case of William Shape, a well to do gentleman who wasn’t drawn by the lure of striking rich (he was rich enough) but just fancied a jolly good adventure. Information about these objects is displayed alongside them on easy to use interactive touch screens.
The highlight for me was the fact that by choosing an individual’s journey to follow you became invested in the trials and tribulations that they went through. Rather than just being given facts, it makes it more personal and gives a visitor a perspective with which they can relate to. All of the characters, although they don’t find masses of (if any) gold do end up well off. As much as it is referred to throughout the exhibition, it would have been interesting to introduce to the dark side of the gold rush through an individual’s account. However, the chance of finding gold was well highlighted on a wheel of fortune that you could spin to see if you could be in the lucky tiny percentage that could strike lucky. This simple interactive really portrays the unlikely odds
Right at the end of the exhibition there was a case that linked the importance of gold to the modern day, with examples of items that gold is used in and a spinning box interactive to explain why gold is selected for different tasks. There was also a set of scales which you could stand on and find out how much your weight in gold would cost, both today and in 1897 at the time of the gold rush. This case of objects and the interactives brings the relationship humans have with gold up to the modern day and shows just how sought after it still is.