Comparative Review of John A. Logan Exhibit

The John A.Logan Museum of Murphysboro, Illinois exhibits the life of John A. Logan, a Civil War general and later a U.S. senator.

The Physical site: 

The argument of the exhibition is John A. Logan was a great contributor to the Civil War and later the civil right movements of the African Americans. Though he was pro-slavery at the beginning, his view changed when he fought for the Union during the Civil War.

The primary audience for this work is the general public, including students, local residents and tourists. The type of visitors when I was there is local residents or the residents from towns nearby who make a weekend trip to the museum.

The primary items used to communication are texts, pictures and the items used by or related to John A. Logan. At the beginning of the tour, there is a section which introduces the history of Illinois, how the political view of the residents was formed before the civil war and how Logan families came to Illinois. The main means are texts and maps.

The site is laid out along the time line of the life of John A. Logan, starts from how his father ended up in Illinois. It is easy to navigate because you can follow the route of visit and the sequence of the exhibit is the same as his life time line. Each room exhibits one main period of John A Logan’s life. It encourages a single flow of traffic because the exhibition is organized along Logan’s time line, so if a visitor starts from “the childhood of Logan”, the traffic will be single flow.

There are not interactive elements in the physical space. It mainly relies on the visitors themselves to read and see the texts, pictures and items in the glass window.

There is one one curator on site, at the entrance/exit of the exhibition. You can talk to her to get the general information before you start to see the exhibition and you can communicate with her about your thought, questions, and suggestions after completing the tour. She is very friendly and knowledgable. And she will tell you some things that are not on exhibit.

To make the exhibition more effective, I think I will introduce some digital means such as audio and video. For example, I will install some electronic pads and TV screens, to show the documentary of John A Logan, to create some interaction on the pads where the visitors can get more information about Logan, played some ask-and-answer games and some other games based on history. Currently the exhibition mainly relies on texts, pictures and physical items in the display window.

The Digital Presence (

The argument about history is John A Logan’s life which chronicles from his birth to death, showing John A. Logan was a great contributor to the Civil War and later the civil right movements of the African Americans. The website mainly uses the forms of timeline, pictures and videos to show his great achievements. The visitors can get general idea of the main achievements of Logan but can not get many details. The website does not show interpretive point of view but just displays many facts of Logan’s life around different themes such as family, civil war and legacy.

The primary audience for the work is the general public, either those who plan to visit the museum or those who can’t but want to know more about John A.Logan. The success in delivering materials depends on the type of the audience. For those who plan to visit the museum, I think the website serves as a great preliminary introduction and arouses more of visitors’ interest in the exhibition. For those who can’t not visit the site but need to know more about Logan, I think the online exhibit could have had more content, adding more details and using more kinds of tools to exhibit. According to my personal experience, the assumptions it makes about the audience are they don’t know much about Logan, need the site to tell more and will visit the museum after reading the website.

The layout of website is easy to read and well-organized. You can find what you need under different categories and it’s easy to find the access to each part. You can find them either by clicking different categories or the link on the front pages, making it a shortcut directly to where you want to go. It is very easy to native. It is not obvious that it encourages a single flow of traffic. Visitors can just go back and forth by clicking the content they are interested in. They can skip what they don’t want to read.

The content is basically the same as the physical exhibition but less detailed. Also, it doesn’t not show everything in the physical exhibition, only part of them. It looks like a simplified version of the physical exhibition. But it also shows the information the physical exhibition does not show due to the limit of space such as the family tree, the information of every family members of Logan and their pictures.  The website offers other information about the museum such as telephone, hours, contact information, membership information, upcoming events, visitors’ feedback etc.

The site does not have participatory or interactive elements. The visitors are passive readers.

The interaction is only you can leave a message to them, if this counts as interaction. The interaction plays a very minor role in the success of the site.

The webite does an excellent job by adding audios and videos to introduce and interpret the history. But it might be able to use more digital tools to animate the exhibit such as 360 degree panorama pictures to set the visitors inside the exhibition, powerpoint slides, some interactive  features such as online talk, interactive videos, games and offer more details of history than the physical exhibition.  The physical exhibition is limited by space but the website isn’t.

Comparative Review of the Two Means of Exhibitions 

The advantage of the physical exhibition is the visitors can immerse themselves in the exhibition. It is easier for visitors to get “the atmosphere” of history.  Moreover, the physical present in the exhibition enables the visitors to see the items on the display much more clearly, while it is almost impossible to have this clarity by watching the online exhibit, even if the online exhibit shows everything on the physical display. Even if you can see the same thing clearly online, in matter in picture or video, the “texture” is different. The feel of history it gives you is different. The on-site item definitely give visitors more real feeling of history. The third advantage of physical exhibition is you can have interaction with the museum staff. This talk can give you more information about history, about the exhibition and other things you can’t find online and in the physical exhibition. Very few museums provide online interaction with curators and even if they do, it feels different from a face-to-face communication. The disadvantage of physical exhibition is the space is limited, so not everything is on display. Second disadvantage is you may not be able to reach the location either because it is far or a bad weather or off-hours.

The disadvantages of physical exhibition is the advantages of the online exhibition. The biggest advantage, in my opinion, is it is not limited by the space. The curators can show limitless content on the website and put them in good order. This is impossible in the physical exhibition. The second advantage is the visitors can decide what to read and what not to read when they see the exhibition online. In the physical exhibition, you can skip the part you are not interested in but first you have to follow the sequence of the exhibit set by the curator. Other advantages of online exhibit are you can see the exhibition at any time and from any location as long as you have a computer.

In short, the online exhibition and the physical exhibition both have advantages and different advantages. It depends on different visitors’ needs to decide what type is the best for the visitors.

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