Students ‘Show and Tell’ in revealing Global Museum exhibit

A green puppet welcomes a visitor to a museum exhibit

Harry and Gertrude, puppets created by "Sesame Street" performer Michael Earl, welcome a visitor to the Show & Tell exhibit in the Global Museum.

The exhibit is one of three in the museum, which has reopened for preview hours through May 11

We all remember show and tell from kindergarten: bring in something interesting from home and tell the other kids about it. It’s a good way to help children learn how to share information while strengthening their connections with classmates.

A new museum exhibit is taking that to the next level. The collegiate level, in fact. “Show & Tell” is one of three temporary exhibits on display at San Francisco State University’s Global Museum through May 11. Produced by student storytellers from Lecturer Fran Osborne’s class “Museum Studies 730: Exhibit Development,” “Show & Tell” features items from the students’ lives in displays that reveal the deeply personal stories behind them. Visitors will see everything from a childhood soccer medal to an elaborate, “Lord of the Rings”-worthy wizard costume created for Renaissance fairs.

“I remember being surprised by how revealing some of these stories were,” said Russell Nauman, a Museum Studies graduate student and the student curator for “Show & Tell.” “We have dozens of sweet, embarrassing and evocative stories on display. It was challenging to fit everything into one room, but we managed it. And to keep it interesting, we introduced audio recordings, videos, sensory moments and guidebooks to add variety and fun to everyone’s ‘show and tell’ experience.”

An elaborately decorated red wizard costume

Show & Tell’s wizard costume on display

The exhibit doesn’t just feature fascinating and surprising objects. There are two surprising residents. Harry and Gertrude, puppets created by late “Sesame Street” performer Michael Earl, are on hand to greet museum guests. They’re Nauman’s contribution to the exhibit: Earl was a mentor when Nauman was active as a puppeteer in the 2010s. Nauman later bought the puppets to help Earl pay his medical bills as he was dying from cancer.

“I wanted to add them to the exhibit to bring joy to visitors and to illustrate how some objects hide painful stories,” Nauman said. “I’m thankful I ‘adopted’ them, but when I look at them, I’m reminded of how much I miss my mentor and friend.”

Nauman says that kind of unexpected and personal connection to the items on display is exactly what he and his fellow students were trying to capture with “Show & Tell.”

“The class really wanted to create something fun, even for those who don’t like museums, and I feel like we delivered,” he said.

Nauman, of course, loves museums. That’s why he began taking classes in San Francisco State’s Museum Studies graduate program last fall. He wasn’t expecting to find himself curating an exhibit just months later.

“Having the Global Museum as a teaching lab is amazing. What I’m learning in class is helping me in my work at the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation,” said Nauman (the foundation’s senior manager of operations and exhibits). “I can apply what I’ve learned in class to my job. I don’t think I could have this experience anywhere else.”

Housed in room 203 of SF State’s Fine Arts Building, the Global Museum had been closed due to the pandemic. It’s open again through May 11 with special spring preview hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. (A full reopening is planned for the fall.) Two other exhibits are on display with “Show & Tell.” Curated by Master of Arts candidate Lindsey Hanson, “Worn Stories” displays a collection of face masks and explores each of their stories. “Clearly Polluted” offers a preview of a forthcoming exhibition investigating environmental racism in the Bay Area.

Learn more about visiting the Global Museum.

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