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Food History Exhibits

Guide for students in the CIA's Food History class working on creating an exhibit for the Tober Exhibit Room.

Food History Exhibit Project Contacts

Prof. Beth Forrest, PhD
Office: W306

Nicole Semenchuk
Archives & Special Collections
Conrad N. Hilton Libary

Archives are open Monday - Friday, 8:30-5:00. Drop-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended.


I. Research

Per class assignments.

II. Selection

“Once a seemingly straightforward matter of displaying collections, exhibition can be viewed as an eminently interpretive endeavor: not just that the information exhibits present is subject to multiple interpretations, but the very act of presentation is fundamentally interpretive.”*

  • Select materials/objects that convey your story.
  • Be sure to keep track of original materials/objects and where they come from so we can return then after the exhibit is taken down.
  • Interpret the materials/objects with your main narrative in mind.
  • Brainstorm ways to visually and thematically organize your materials/objects
  • Keep in mind that visual balance and consistency are essential to a successful presentation.
  • Are there any special considerations?  (i.e. heavy objects, fragile materials…)
  • Become familiar with the exhibit room/cabinets.  Keep in mind the space and any issues this might present for presentation of different types of materials.  For example, text is more difficult to read on the top shelf.
  • Do you need to create any digital prints?  (this will require time to scan and print….)
  • Write an outline and create a map.  These will be fluid, though, and will constantly change. Remain open to your evolving ideas as the process continues.

III. Creation

By now you should have determined which materials/objects you will use and you should have most of your text written for the labels.  Remember, keep the labels simple and remember your audience!

  • Polish your label text.  Make sure your language style is consistent and keep in mind your audience.
  • Schedule printing of any digital images, etc.
  • After your text has been approved, print and gather all your labels and materials/objects.
  • Check with Nicole to make sure there are appropriate stands, easels, mounts, fabric, etc. available.
  • Label mounting supplies will be available in the Archives.

IV. Outreach

Market the exhibit and the opening reception. Includes press release, exhibit card handout, CIA main menu, student bulletin boards, social media, etc.

  • Choose representative images and have a narrative for the entire exhibit.
  • Leave enough time to advertise and distribute materials before opening reception.

V. Installation

Have everything ready before hand.  Naturally, you will make changes at the last minute, but if you are prepared, you will have time to make adjustments as the exhibit is installed.

  • Presentation is extremely important—keep it clean and neat.
  • Is your section engaging? Can you imagine a visitor walking away from your section thinking about something a little differently?
  • Remember the streakers, strollers, and studiers?  Is there something for everyone?  What is your one standout object for the streakers?  Will the studiers walk away with new ideas?


*Roberts, Lisa. From Knowledge to Narrative: Educators and the Changing Museum. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.

Learn More

Donald and Barbara Tober Exhibit Room

The exhibit room in the Conrad N. Hilton Library was named for Donald and Barbara Tober in 2004. "The Tobers have been advocates of The Culinary Institute of America and have demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of private and corporate philanthropy in higher education... Their latest gift is just another example of how the actions of a few can truly benefit the futures of many." (CIA Annual Report, 2003-2004)

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