A love of history, education

Sarah Winski managed “Headed to the White House” at the Constitution Center.

Sarah Winski managed the “Headed to the White House” exhibit. | ZACH FISCHER TTN

When she was about 6 years old, Sarah Winski’s parents thought they had lost their daughter in the crowd while on a tour of Independence Hall. After a few panic-filled moments, they soon realized Winski had merely pushed herself to the front of the group to ask the National Park Ranger some questions.

“And my mom, years later she told me, ‘I should have known it back then,’” said Winski, who received a B.A. in history from Temple in 2004.

The alumna now serves as the manager of exhibition development at the National Constitution Center, located at 525 Arch St., just blocks from Independence Hall. She oversees all of the museum’s in-house content creation for exhibits.

“I realized over the years that my love of history and teaching people about history and telling stories comes together perfectly in a museum,” she said.

Winski has always enjoyed telling stories, she said, and even started out at Temple studying communications with an interest in pursuing film. For a long time after college, though, she said she couldn’t “make sense of the fact” that she had originally pursued communications before history.

“What I realized later: I like telling stories,” Winski said. “That’s my interest. My passion is telling stories and getting people to be really excited about something from the past.”

“I didn’t realize that my medium was museum exhibits,” she added. “It’s really hard to know that.”

Winski said she first began thinking about how history and storytelling come together in different mediums when she was still a student at Temple, while taking a class taught by associate professor of history Jay Lockenour.

“I remembered her as being a really smart, curious student,” Lockenour said.

The National Constitution Center opened the exhibit in February. | ZACH FISCHER TTN
The National Constitution Center opened the exhibit in February. | ZACH FISCHER TTN

The course Winski took, “European History through Film,” aimed to teach students about 20th century European history.  The goal of the course was to teach students this history “but to do it while also thinking about these films that we’re watching as products of these different time periods,” Lockenour said.

“I think what appealed to me is the idea of how you can learn about history through another medium, kind of looking at film as primary sources about history storytelling,” Winski said.

Winski said the work she does now with exhibition creation is almost like film or theater.

“You have settings, you have characters, you try to create drama,” Winski said. “When you create really good exhibitions it should be like doing theater.”

“It’s also similar to film in those ways,” she added. “But the way it’s different is film you can control the order you’re getting the story in. … [With] an exhibit, you can try to do that the best you can, but ultimately, you don’t know in what order a visitor’s going to read your story.”

Winski has been helping the Constitution Center tell stories in different capacities since the museum opened in 2003. In 2009, she began working as the lead content creator for in-house exhibits.

“Sarah is the ideal person that you want on a team,” said Stephanie Reyer, vice president of exhibits and design at the Constitution Center. “She is spirited and passionate and driven.”

“She is the hardest working person I know in exhibit show business,” Reyer added.

Some of Winski’s favorite stories that she has been able to help tell in her time at the Constitution Center are part of the exhibit, “Art of the American Soldier,” which was on display starting in 2010.

The exhibit featured more than 250 pieces of art created by artists who were commissioned by the army since World War I to paint and draw what soldiers were experiencing on the battlefield.

“We had a lot of soldier artists involved with it and doing interviews and having their voices in the exhibition,” Winski said. “It was just a really moving experience.”

The most recent exhibit Winski has worked on is currently on display at the Constitution Center and is titled, “Headed to the Whitehouse.” It helps tell the story that is currently unfolding today with the presidential election.

“This exhibition really gives you a historical context and a Constitutional context for not just the election contest, but for the presidency,” Reyer said.

The exhibit features a hand-shaking wall, voting booths and the opportunity to make an individualized campaign commercial.

“There’s just such a huge uptake in the public conscious and the media, so we really love to capitalize on that in those years,” Winski said.

“We’re not for or against anyone or anything,” she added. “But we’re for people having debates, talking about the issues, talking about Constitutional issues and seeing how they’re relevant to them in their everyday lives.”

Jenny Roberts can be reached at jennifer.roberts@temple.edu.

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