The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

Bringing Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay to Life

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For me, the phrase "Christmas in July" is pretty accurate.  I've been lucky enough to have designed our Prange's Holiday Memories windows for the last two years.  Working on the holiday display is by far my favorite part of the year because I get to flex my artistic muscles and create fun and unique dioramas that make people smile.  

Putting these windows together is no small feat.  Planning this year's windows started as soon as last year's exhibit was up and running.  This year I'm working with our curator, Kevin Cullen, and educator, Kirsten Smith, to put everything together.  After a two years hiatus, the Enchanted Forest is making its triumphant return with the various farm and wildlife critters playing in the snow among the trees and snow babies.  This year you'll also get to see two ideas that I've been thinking about the last few years that happen to be the perfect compliment to this year's extended exhibit-Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay.  

As soon as the theme(s) are decided I get to work on the actual design of the displays.  The dolls and other figures are chosen, tested out to make sure they're still in working order, and then the creativity begins.  I lay out the dolls in each of their cases and start to sketch out what the backdrop is going to be.  Then I begin building the scene and determine what kind of furniture or three-dimensional objects the figures can interact with, and what will enhance the backdrop.  I use a modest stockpile of props that I've accumulated throughout the years.  That which I don't find, I decide either to buy, or more often than not, build.  

Once the case is roughly planned out I start refining the sketches and looking at reference photos.  More details are added later once the dolls are in place and I can see what would complement the scene.  Each case takes at least a month of work before they get to the level that you see when they're on display.  

I also like to put a little humor into things.  Sometimes it's a mischievous looking snow baby hoarding a pile of snowballs, or one of the dogs playfully inspecting a picture of a squirrel, or a mouse pilfering a candy cane from the family's tree.  

Getting the opportunity to flex my inner artist and imagination is not the only reason this display is my favorite to work on.  I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people respond favorably to the things that spring forth from my brain.  But it goes beyond the personal satisfaction.  Seeing the way that people react to this exhibit in particular is different from other exhibits.  It's a family experience and it spans generations.  I see grandparents, great-grandparents, their kids, and their kids' kids all come and share a moment that becomes a memory.  People travel from around the state and sometimes even further to remember.  Memories like that, and being a part of triggering and creating new ones, is quite an experience.  

Downtown Green Bay, the Prange's windows, Kaaps, Bruce the Spruce etc. are still in our community's living memory.  By creating the experiences for the next generations, we are able to extend that living memory for another lifetime.  So come out and make some memories this holiday season! 

Maggie Dernehl
Exhibit Technician 

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