Archive for the ‘The Exhibit’ Category

Exhibit and Book Update

The Book, The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 19 2010

Well, I am on track to have the book through its fourth/fifth/sixth draft (depends what section you’re reading) by the end of the week.  Some information I’ve received lately helped me to flesh out some more people and add some touches here and there.  Then it’s off to my editors, a final re-write, and off to the publishers!  Yay!

Now if only those chapters could edit themselves, because I HATE editing.  Oh well.

The museum where the exhibit will go has finished doing all the crazy stuff that generally comes up this time of year in preparation for the tourist season.  While we are open all year, our busy season is, of course, Memorial Day to Labor Day.  The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend will be the Lost Boat Ceremony, where we remember all 52 boats lost during WWII with a ring of a sub bell and a flower in the water.  Silversides looks so beautiful with all those carnations floating around her.  Then of course, she fires her engines at the close of the ceremony, and you can’t see anything but the black smoke!

But since that stuff has been moved out of the way, we’re back to working full-time on the Flier exhibit, and hopefully, I’ll have some updates here in the next couple of weeks.

Dive Detectives has now aired the USS Flier episode in Canada and the UK, but there are no officially announced plans to air it in the United States as of yet.  I’m not sure why there’s a delay in the States, but I hope that not only the Flier episode but all six are shown.  Two of those episodes cover Great Lakes shipwrecks: the iconic Edmund Fitzgerald, and two 1812 shipwrecks.

One of the fascinating things about ships that sink in the Great Lakes is the freshwater preserves many of those ships in nearly perfect conditions (minus a few tons of zebra mussles).  Unlike the ocean, where ships, especially wooden ships, will eventually wear away (or are eaten away) to nothing, Great Lakes wrecks remain standing, sometimes their ropes and riggings still intact.  What Dive Detectives found out about the Fitzgerald was apparently enough to cause Gordon Lightfoot to change one of the lyric lines of his legendary “Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald“.

So where was Flier, Robalo and Redfin 66 years ago today? Flier is starting her trials off the coast of California, to catch and major, or even minor, problems while she’s still within easy reach of one of the biggest and best repair yards in the country.  She’s diving deep, surfacing quickly, doing everything she can to shake any potential problems loose, because the last thing you want to find out during a depth charge attack is that you should have tested her a little harder when you had the chance.

Redfin is closing out her second patrol.  She patrolled around the south-eastern portion of the Philippines and has had a lot of successes.  She took out four frieghters, and one destroyer, survived a depth charge attack and radioed Fremantle that she was coming home.  Her patrol isn’t quite finished yet, as she’ll soon learn, and what’s about to happen would have a big impact on the Flier survivors.

Robalo is crossing into enemy territory near Timor Island.  She’s about to earn a few stripes.

BREAKING: Trailer released for Dive Detectives

The Book, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 12 2010

I’ve noticed a lot of people have found this site looking for photos or images of the Flier wreck.  Those are all in the possession of the filmers, YAP Films and Mike and Warren Fletcher of Dive Detectives.  The search for the Flier will be featured in a future episode of “Dive Detectives” called “Submarine Graveyard” and they recently posted their trailer for this episode, and the first glimpses of the USS Flier at rest in Balabac Straits!

There’s no news yet on when this will air, but it will definitely be exciting when it does especially since it seems they are tracking not only the Flier, but her sister the Robalo, whose grave location is still unknown and the fate of the crew is still a mystery.

On another note, I was able to meet with someone today who was able to give me wonderful insights into my main character, Al, and will require quite a bit of work, but I think will really improve the book.  I’ll have to re-write a couple of scenes, that’s for sure!

And as for the exhibit, we’re still looking for funding, but hopefully, as more stuff about the Flier comes out, we may find sponsors or get interest from foundations.  I’ll keep everyone posted.

Calling all Flier Families

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 09 2010

Well, this has finally been announced officially, so I can put it up here:

The Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum will be hosting the National Flier Memorial Service on the 66th anniversary of her sinking, Friday, August 13, 2010.

We are looking for the family members of all Flier crewmembers.  The USS Bowfin museum is helping to find them with the assistance of a team of volunteers.

The crew page on ussflier.com, with the names and information and photos of the crewmembers can be found here:

If any of these men look familiar, please contact me or Charles Hinman of On Eternal Patrol’s website.

I’ll post more details as they become available.

Another Chapter, enjoy!

The Book, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 02 2010

I’m starting  to realize why there are not many blogs about the development of museum exhibits.  I know  a whole lot more than I am allowed to say at this time.  As soon as I can, I will pass things on here, but some days it’s like “Can’t talk about this, can’t say that, that’s still in development…”

I’ve got a few meetings in a couple of weeks that I hope will solidify some things so I can get started on real graphics and things.

In the meantime, I’m posting the first chapter of my book which takes place in Fremantle and Darwin.  I hope you all enjoy:

Chapter 1: Fremantle Australia, August 2, 1944

Tomorrow I believe we watch the Robalo join the fleet at Freo, and remember a lost submarine.

New Look!

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 22 2010

Well, after a weekend of my husband and I learning the rudimentary ropes of website design and updating, we have a new look as you can see.  This is part of the branding of the Flier I spoke about yesterday.   I’ve also designed covers for potential programs, letterhead, and promotional materials to see if the motifs can work back and forth across the various medias needed, and part of how it will look is seen above.

It’s not perfect.  Partially because for some reason, while the header and sides were originally designed in .jpg format, which allowed me to play as much as I wanted, the footer was a .gif.

Don’t ask me what the difference is, I don’t know myself.  What I DO know, is that apparently, .gifs can only do greyish colors and no gradients or anything fun.  So the color palette had to be overhauled so that the sides would match the bottom.  Oh well.  It’s not worth worrying that much over.

So you can start to see what I’m thinking of doing here.  The image of the submarine is actually the Flier herself, taken on the 20 of April on training runs off the coast of California.  I love this image (and its twin, the stern shot) because many of the men are standing on the deck, reminding me that its not a machine of steel and brass that I’m working on memorializing, but the men who went with her and didn’t come back home.  It’s easy to talk about remembering the Flier, memorializing the Flier, building an exhibit about the Flier, but this image reminds me that when I say “Flier”, I mean her 84 crewmen, especially the 76 who never came back home and left their families behind.

The Bow-on shot with the Flier's men standing on the deck

Some of my family members are amused by my resistance to reading sad books or watching sad movies, yet my near-obsession with this project and the fact that I have a huge file full of photographs of these men, reminding me of WHO these guys were.  I guess in a way, as an artist (since that is what I have my college degree in, truth be told) I feel like I’m bringing their characters to life in the best way I can with the skill that I have.   It’s a sad tale, true, since so few survived, but they sacrificed themselves willingly.

The Stern of the Flier taken the same day, with more men on the deck. All too soon, this behavior would be forbidden, since in an emergency, the fewer men on the surface to get inside the quicker a sub could submerge. Some men would go months before they saw the sun again.

My husband was in the Marine Reserves when we met, and he drove me home every month during his training weekend to visit my family.  We got to know each other well on those trips.  In the dead of winter once, I asked him how his training weekend went, and he told me how they went far north in Michigan and camped in the drifts of snow, and marched through deep drifts covered in ice crusts that exhausted them having to punch through, and how hard it was to keep up at times.  He was stating this matter-of-factly, but I started to feel sorry for him and say so.  After the third time or so of me saying, “Oh I’m sorry,” he turned to me and said, “Why do you keep saying that?  You asked me how my weekend was, and that is how it was, but I don’t feel sorry for myself or the other Marines in my platoon and I don’t like you feeling sorry for me either.  I signed up to do this to protect my family and friends, and country and I do so willingly, even it is hard or cold or if we get called up to go somewhere for months at a time.  It’s an honor to serve, and if necessary, it’s an honor to die so my family and friends and even you can live in freedom.  So stop feeling sorry for me.”

It was a hard lesson to learn, but since then, I’ve heard it echoed in many other active duty and veteran’s voices:  It’s an honor to serve and protect my country, I don’t want your pity for my tough life.  Just do your best, and remember those who gave everything.

So here I sit, a civilian married to a former Marine  (Medical Discharge, long story), with members of my family coming from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and perhaps soon another Sailor, doing my best.  I hope it’s enough.

Exhibit Update

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 20 2010

We’re at that spot right now where the exhibit continues, but my portion of it is stalled.  It’s in the hands of others, so here I sit, not really able to move forward, but still laying the groundwork for the exhibit when it finally gets off the ground.

I’m working on developing the Flier brand for this exhibit, which isn’t as commercial as that sounds.  All a brand is really, is a standard of presentation.  Most companies, universities, schools, professional organizations, use brands which include a color palette, certain fonts to use, official insignias, letterhead, and anything else desired.  The idea is that everything associated with that “brand” is all tied together and looks uniform and well designed.  This is especially important in  organizations like museums or universities where more than one department might independently develop brochures or websites for their areas separately from the “official” advertising department.

When you see the same thing over and over, you start to recognize it.  When people see a big gold block “M” on a dark blue background, you automatically recognize the University of Michigan.  A green squarish “S” with on a white background is Michigan State University.  No need for thinking, no need for trying to remember where you last saw that.  It’s been presented over and over again until you recognize these two organizations with a glance.  That is good branding.  And I’ll guarantee, that both these universities have standards that say precisely WHICH shades of blue, gold, green and white (yes, there are multiple different “shades” of white just as there are black) that those are, and which fonts to use in a brochure, how those symbols are to be presented and how they are not.

They don’t, unfortunately, tell you how to have a peaceable home during the Michigan/Michigan State game.

You know you're from Michigan if....half of your family won't talk to the other half during the U of M vs. MSU game.

So I’m working on developing the overall look and color palette for the Flier materials, which will be used in letterhead, promotional materials, the exhibit itself, ect.  I did a large one for the exhibit hall, so this has to be related, but distinct.  It’s not hard, but it is tricky.  It has to look “naval”, all the colors have to work with all the others so any of them can be used with any of the others, the fonts have to be interesting, clear, and able to work well at 6 points tall as well as six inches (or six feet).  I think I played with some 60 shades of gray for the last palette before choosing two.

Just a simple chore, but if I do it now, it’s set for later when I can start.  I am playing with a palette that’s primarily dark blue, blue-black and silver gray as the base, so we’ll see.  It’s a little dark, so I have to pick some lighter colors to offset that, or everyone will need Prozac before leaving the exhibit!

In partnership with the Bowfin, we’re also working on tracking down the surviving family members of the Flier and the Flier Survivors.  If you are one and happen to read this, please contact me at ussflierproject.com  or Charles Hinman at info.ussflier.com.  We’re working on a rather large project I hope to announce soon.

Exhibit Update

The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 09 2010

Well, the formal proposal is finished.  11 custom graphics for it.  And of course, as is normal, I realized after I sent it that I forgot a few things and had to send several addendums in follow-up e-mails.  Oh well.

One of the fun things to do with the proposals is establish a basic exhibit, then build layers on top of it.  It’s rather like a menu.  If you get past the baseline you can start to pick and choose what you want for additions.  Whether you want floor graphics, or touchscreen interactive documentaries or quizzes, or what.  It’ll be interesting to see what this will end up looking like.  Once I get clearance to show what we have in mind, I’ll post it here.

One of the most interesting things about this exhibit is working with the crew of the USS Redfin, the submarine that not only rescued the Flier survivors, but who also, four months previously, dropped off the Coastwatchers that sheltered them and set up the rescue.   The Redfin survived WWII, then went on to serve until 1969.  Her crew gets together every year to tour, swap stories, and in general, have a good time.  They’re very good at that, and very welcoming (not to mention, hilarious).

When they had their 2008 reunion in Muskegon, they asked me to talk about the Flier and Redfin’s rescue.  It was one of the best evenings in my life.  The next year, they contacted us to say that one of their number had located the Redfin’s bell and, on the condition we put it on display, they wanted to donate it to the museum and in particular, to the long-talked about Flier exhibit.

Submarines tended to leave their bells behind when they left on patrol.  If they remained mounted to the exterior of the submarine, it could ring during the concussions of a depth charge attack, allowing their enemy to hone in and target the sound.  If they brought it inside, it would just use up valuable storage space.  Moreover, if they never came back, their bell could serve as a memorial.  Some of these bells are used for that purpose today.  Some, due to the fact they’re made of nearly 100 pounds of solid brass, were sold and melted down.   (The bell for the USS Narwhal was rescued from the scrap metal heap only a few years ago and is now at the Bowfin Museum inPearl Harbor,  Hawai’i:  http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/09/24/news/story19.html )

It is tradition to ring a bell in memory of lost boats and their crews.  The Redfin bell will do that for the lost Fliers and nearly 3500 men who have given their all in the submarine service.

The Flier’s bell is still missing.  It may have been destroyed decades ago.  It may exist somewhere, long forgotten in someone’s attic.  If anyone ever finds an old brass bell engraved “USS Flier 1943 (or possibly 194)” we would love to hear from you so she can sit next to her sister.

And where was Flier 66 years ago today?  About halfway back to the United States.

Laying Out An Exhibit

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

Originally posted February 3, 2010

I’ve done various exhibits at various institutions (though mainly two) for several years.  I used to think what people wanted was to put a bunch of old and ancient items on display so you can see them.  Certainly, in some of the largest museums in the country and the world  (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, The British Museum in London, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin the Louvre in Paris) do exactly that, and don’t suffer from lack of visitors.  But they hold works that are iconic and unique, and in some cases, massive.  (The Met has an entire Egyptian Temple Complex that was transported piece by piece and reassembled inside their walls–I and my museum are going to have a problem competing with that wow factor).  People come from miles around on purpose to see the Monets, the Istar Gate, the bust of Nefertiti, Egyptian collections…no explanation needed.  They speak for themselves.

But what do you do when you have a story to tell and you need to do an exhibit around that? Or if the artifacts you hold are fascinating, but hardly unusual?  (If you’ve seen one submarine 4-inch .50-caliber bullet and jacket, you’ve seen them all, trust me.  Don’t get me started on some of the other things I’ve seen in our holdings)

What captures people’s interest is the stories that these objects help tell.  Sometimes, the object, like the Mona Lisa or the Tower of London, or the Declaration of Independence intrinsically tell their stories, but others need help with the interpretation, especially since culturally and technologically we’re much further away from our countrymen of 70 years ago, than they were from the Civil War veterans 70 years prior to them.

So, I usually start with artifacts with the eye to a story.  What do they say to me, and how can I make that interesting and exciting to someone else?  Sometimes (like the time I did an exhibit on the history of the presentation of the written word) it can be difficult.  Other times, like the USS Flier, the story tells itself, I just need to figure out what to put with it to bring it to life.

Then of course, there’s the floor plan, the layout, making sure the exhibit doesn’t block the fire exits, and accommodates the Americans with Disabilities Act, all of which just make it more intriguing, not frustrating.  (Well at least for me, and at least, most of the time)

Then of course, there are things like yesterday’s announcement of the discovery of Flier.  Now I have to go back to the drawing board and completely overhaul the exhibit exit to reflect the most recent information.

And the budget.  Can never forget the almighty budget.

I’ll show you what I mean soon.

Introduction

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

Originally posted on Jan 30, 2010

Ever wonder what goes into building a museum exhibit, or writing a book?  Here’s your chance to find out, and all at mach 9!

The USS Flier was a United States Submarine that struck a mine and sank in thirty seconds in 1944.  Fifteen of her crew who had been on deck or just one deck down managed to survive, and started swimming for land.  By morning, only eight were left.  They had to forage for food, build rafts to explore other islands, were taken by guerillas and smuggled to American spy bases deep in Japanese-held territory.

They drank arsenic-laced water, traveled in boats laden with newlyweds and all their worldly goods, (including baskets of live chickens and bags of rice), hunted wild boars in the rain forest, found survivors of the Battles of Bataan and Corrigedor, and became the only submariners during WWII to escape their sinking sub, elude capture, and make it back home.  The people they met and systems that helped them get out of danger were so top-secret that they were sworn to secrecy for decades.

Alvin E. Jacobson was 22, a member of the ROTC and left behind his education at University of Michigan to fight for his country.  By August 14, 1944, he was the youngest of the officers to survive.  By 2005, he was the last surviving member of the Flier’s crew, the only one who remembered the long-classified story.

He served his country during WWII, and after, operating a business that employed many, sitting on boards of museums and hospitals, and trying to make his community a better place.  One of those museums was the Great Lakes Memorial and Museum (GLNMM), where I work.  We take care of Flier’s sister, USS  Silversides, the most successful surviving submarine of WWII.

This year, we are opening a new exhibit about the USS Flier, her lost crew, and the eight survivors.  Though Al passed away in 2008, he sat down with me on video and audio tapes for many interviews for over two years, recalling this story.  I and many at the museum miss him greatly, but are looking forward to building this exhibit, which was his greatest dream: to tell the story of the Flier so his lost crewmates would be remembered.

So how does one fill nearly 3,000 square feet of space with an exhibit that is (hopefully) interesting and interactive while being accurate?  How does one publish a novel based on his tale at the same time?  Come with me and we’ll find out.  I have published only very small pieces before and I designed the Main Exhibit Hall in the same museum, so I’m not a complete novice….

But if this goes the way the last one did, it’s going to be one wild, amazing ride.