Panel Writing Guidelines
The exhibition in your community will include several panels, a showcase for objects and a pull up banner to introduce and promote the event. Your museum will produce content for three panels using local stories and images that are relevant to your community. The History Department staff at the Western Australian Museum will contribute an introductory and a concluding panel to allow your community to focus on telling your own stories in an appropriate context.
Each panel should be approximately 200 words, as this is an effective length for most readers. It is best when these words are split up into chunks of around 50 words, complemented by images and photographs. For each panel it is a good practice to have about two or three good quality related images, which will engage visitors and give them a visual sense of life in this period.
Choosing the stories and images
The stories that you choose should engage the emotions of the visitor and relate directly to your place and how your community was affected.
Think about your home at that point in time – in what ways did being from that place affect the soldier’s role overseas in the war? How did the war change your town and the lives of people who lived in it?
You might want to consider the impact beyond the war years. Feel free to present a story that follows the implications of the war into the early 1920s as long as the root of the story is in the First World War.
For images you will need high quality scans. Digital images need to be of a publication standard
Writing the text
Most audience studies have found that visitors generally don’t like to read large amounts of text and will skip many parts of exhibitions. However, if the story is interesting and the text is written clearly, visitors will be drawn to read on. Use a warm and friendly tone in a conversational style. The best way to keep the text clear is to have one idea per sentence and one subject per paragraph. Each paragraph will convey the story of one person or event.
Visitors to museums are there because they are curious to know about the local stories from this area. Visitors have a special experience in a museum when they engage deeply with stories and make connections to the place that the museum represents.
We encourage partners to look for anything that is unique to the area. Stories about people involve not only the soldiers who went to war, but those left behind. You might find stories that relate to the exhibition through various types of people, such as those who were in Reserved Occupations, were interned, or people who stayed behind to look after land or family. Look for stories that your visitors might not have heard before.
Provided are some questions which may help to help you gather stories. The questions are a starting place or guide only.
- Who was the person involved?
- What did they do and where did they live?
- What were the circumstances in which they became involved in the war?
- What did they contribute to the war effort?
- What happened to them during the war?
- How did being from/in this place affect them?
- What were their circumstances after the war, how did the war impact on or change their lives?
Rather than focusing on individual people, you may want to explore events; the stories can be limited to one a panel, or if it is particularly in depth, it can be stretched over a few. It is really up to you to determine what you think that story needs.
- What happened in your place?
- How was it connected to the First World War and the role of Western Australia in it?
- Who was involved in this event and what were their usual roles within the community?
The most important question to keep in mind when selecting and writing about your stories is, how does this relate to our place? What is it about the people, the environment, or the history of our place that makes this story ours?