Are you looking for a way to share your family history at your next reunion without making it seem boring and stuffy? How about setting up a Family Museum at your event! In this tutorial, learn how to make your Family Museum appeal to all ages.
Tips for Setting Up Your Family Museum
No matter where you hold your reunion, try to place the Family Museum in a walk-through area, not off in a corner. We want people to see the museum and be in it!!
Use copies of photos and items that will be ok to be touched by curious family members. Do not place fragile, irreplaceable original items in your museum.
Make some features of the museum hands-on and/or interactive to capture the younger generation’s interest.
Keep each display easy to access/view by people of all ages and heights. Keep each display brief to read or view to learn something about their family history.
Items to Include in the Museum
- Individual photos of as many generations of grandparents as possible. Do you have family photos going back to the 1860s or even a little earlier? Display them on a poster as a photo pedigree chart.
- A visual military history of your family: make a poster commemorating all the known servicemen and women from each war. Include information on the military unit and rank if known. Our poster also included flags and badges representing each branch of the military our ancestors served in.
- A poster about the earliest generation known in this branch of the family line. This display could include maps, family crests, and even a short story.
- Photos of the area the family is from, including family group photos from previous generations, buildings the family lived in, etc. At our reunion, this photo wall generated the most questions from younger generations, and the older generations were happy to share their knowledge about the history of the family and the area.
- Pedigree charts: This one nearly goes without saying, but hey, print out some pretty pedigree charts to display in your museum. A lot of family members may have never seen the family pedigree before!
- Books: Are you blessed to have published books about the branch of your family being celebrated at the reunion? This is a great opportunity to dust off those books and display them for the family to enjoy. At our last reunion, we happened to have several books or compilations about the family and pulled them all out onto a table near some recliners for family members to peruse. We even marked a few interesting passages with sticky notes to get people started.
- Even if you don’t have books to display, do you know of shorter stories about the family or individual ancestors that you could print and combine in a binder for the museum?
- Recipes: Have certain recipes been passed down in the family for generations? Did an earlier generation create a family cookbook? Display these recipes at the reunion… perhaps even with samples! At our reunion, I was surprised to note that most of the family members of the generation just older than me had all received a family cookbook. There were a lot of tasty looking recipes in that book! When we got talking about the cookbook, someone mentioned that they had the digital files for the cookbook and we could get some more books printed for the next adult generation. All this because we displayed some family recipes at the reunion museum.
How to Make Your Museum Fun and Approachable
Aside from displaying items from your family history, consider some special features that will draw people into the museum and get them actively participating. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Contest for the kids (or the kid in all of us): At our reunion, this was a “Guess How Much Candy/Food is in the Jar” contest. My mother-in-law filled several shapes and sizes of jars with all sorts of edible goodies. She set out answer sheets and pencils for contestants to fill out, and a box to submit their entry. By itself, this contest didn’t have anything to do with genealogy, but it was placed at the back of our museum room, giving everyone extra incentive to explore the museum. Children, teens and adults were making guesses in hopes of winning a treat!
- A service project: Consider a service or fund-raiser that ties into the family heritage for part of your museum display. For our past reunion, we held a fund-raiser to pay for commemorative bricks for several of our military servicemen that will be added to a memorial being built in a nearby city. Perhaps you could take up a collection to place a headstone at an ancestor’s gravesite that doesn’t have one. The possibilities are endless. Set up a display explaining the project and what it will do to preserve the family legacy.