Setting Sail with Cheryl Mure, Vice President of Education for Premier Exhibitions

Setting Sail with Cheryl Mure, Vice President of Education for Premier ExhibitionsPart of the reason why I wanted to learn how to scuba dive was so I could dive shipwrecks. There is just something about a shipwreck that draws my attention. I actually had the chance to dive my first wreck in December of 2010. We were in Aruba and I did a wreck that sat over a mile off the coast and about sixty-five foot below the surface of the ocean. Regardless, scuba diving aside, perhaps the most famous shipwreck is that of the Titanic. This boat was said to be unsinkable and was boarded by some of the world’s most prestigious persons. (You had to be rich to afford first or second class accommodations.) The captain of the ship even came out of retirement to take this boat on her maiden voyage. As we all know, the boat would eventually strike an iceberg and sink in the icy cold waters of the Atlantic. Even though the last remaining survivor has passed on, the history of the wreck and her artifacts will live on forever. That is where Premier Exhibitions and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition come into play.

This exhibition was on display at the Indiana State Museum from the end of September, 2010 through the first part of January, 2011. I had the chance to see this exhibit and have been bringing you exclusive coverage on this for the last few weeks. But the exhibit wasn’t enough for me. I needed to sit down with someone behind the scenes. So I called up Cheryl Mure, Vice President of Education for Premier Exhibitions. We had a nice long chat about the wreck and what her role is with Premier Exhibitions. Sit back, relax, and set said as we learn more about Cheryl and Premier Exhibitions.

How long have you been working with Premier Exhibitions?

I have been here for five years.

What did you do before that?

Before coming to Premier Exhibitions, I was a teacher. I actually tutored students and brought that education background to Premier Exhibitions. I help develop curriculum about the ship, the language arts, the map, the technology; to create Titanic teaching units that culminates in say, a field trip to the exhibition.

I assume that working for Premier Exhibitions that you get to see the exhibits that you promote. Have you seen the Titanic exhibit?

I can’t see it enough. Each exhibition that we host has its own personality. We showcase different artifacts and different room recreations. Each one tells it’s own story.

What do you like most about your job?

I really enjoy being in the exhibition with people, especially kids. Watching their reactions to the story as it unfolds before them. I like to be able to interact with them, answer questions, and I am always astonished by the smallest of Titanic enthusiasts. The kids under eight years old always seem to have the questions I can’t answer. I do enjoy being inside the exhibition with all of our visitors.

Are there things you hate about your job?

It’s really unique and gives me great opportunities all over the world. The exhibition, as I am sure you know, tours the world. I have traveled and have met fantastic people in museums all over the globe.

Where did you go to college? What did you study?

I graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. I have a degree in psychology from there and a Master’s in education from Georgia State University.

What is Running Subway Productions?

We partnered with Running Subway Productions them when we brought the exhibition to New York City.

These exhibitions are overseas quite a bit too. Do you get the chance to travel overseas very often for work?

Very often I will go to the exhibition during the grand opening so that I can meet with local teachers and promote the exhibition with the students. I also work with the media in the different cities.

Surely you have seen the movie Titanic. Did you like the film?

Everyone relates to Jack and Rose in Titanic, the blockbuster film. But they are fictional. So is the heart of the ocean. Those elements were added to create the drama needed for a film of that magnitude. What I love, and what I look at when I see that film, are the artifacts that we have in our collection. I look at the ship and I look at the setting and I think, “Oh we have that artifact our collection.” I also love to listen to people’s stories about Titanic. That film really brings those stories to life.

Explain more about what a typical day in the office is like for you.

Oh my goodness! We read a lot of curriculum from all over the United States. We collaborate all of our teacher’s study guides for the city that holds the exhibitor and go from there. We are very well versed in the expectations state-by-state. We are always adapting and adjusting our curriculum to make sure it’s current, appealing to kids, and teacher friendly. We spend a lot of time on the development of those learning tools. We are busy, that’s for sure.

Like I said, I do travel quite a bit. I am often on my way to the airport or on the way back at any given time. We are always looking for ways to make this a better visitor experience.

Where are your offices located?

We are located in Atlanta.

You guys work with other exhibitions, not just the Titanic artifact exhibit. I have been meaning to see the Bodies exhibit. What is it like?

For Bodies, we developed the curriculum materials for that as well as for Dialog in the Dark. That is another exhibit that people are really starting to get excited about.

I have heard about that. Tell me a little bit more about your Dialog in the Dark.

Dialog in the Dark is an exhibition in complete darkness. You are lead through everyday environments like a park, a city street; all the while you are being led by a blind or visually impaired guide. You are relying from someone who cannot see to be your eyes in this exhibition. You end up in a café setting where you can sit down to talk to your guide and have a dialog with them. It is a very moving and emotional exhibit. It stays with you long after you leave the exhibition.

Tell me about the role you guys have with Titanic recovery.

RMS Titanic Inc. was basically formed for the purpose of exploring the wreck of the Titanic and surrounding ocean areas. This area is called the debris field.

The Maritime Courts awarded us access to the wreck site. We can to go to the debris field of Titanic and recover artifacts with the sole purpose of conservation and display. No one goes on board the ship and no one is allowed to take anything off the ship. This is out of respect for the lives lost that night. We can film and document the wreck itself, but no one can take anything from the ship.

How do you choose which city gets what artifacts?

We have a staff of curators that help decide. They look at every artifact before it goes on display. When we leave Indianapolis, the collections team will look at all the artifacts and determine their readiness to continue to be displayed. The metal, the paper, and the textiles have to rest up to two years before they can go out again in all the light and humidity. They make very careful determination based on the conditions of the artifacts themselves. There are some that we always want to be able to showcase. We try to always bring certain things but any exhibition you will see different pieces of our collection.

You do a lot of work with teachers. What makes a teacher want to teach about the titanic?

That is a great question. We created the Titanic teachers guide to answer that question for teachers. We have cross-curricular lesson plans. There is math, creative writing, geography, and fine arts so that every teacher can look at this theme and find something that correlates to his or her classroom. We make those teaching materials easily accessible, free, down loadable so that teachers can access them, use them in the classroom, in whatever manner makes sense, and then come to the museum and watch all of those teachable moments happen around every turn in each gallery.

That is what we live for as teachers. Light bulbs to start going off.

How many schools did you work with in Indiana?

We worked with the museum itself, but not just with Indiana but the surrounding states. We pulled in teachers in from all over the region.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you gunning for the President’s chair?

(Laughs) You should ask the current president, who is sitting in the office right next to me. Please don’t tell me I have peeked already!

I always let the bands and DJs that I work with get the last word. So why not let you get the last word too? Go.

I would like to say that coming to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a great experience. We have never been to Indian before, and we don’t want you to miss it. Nothing tells the story of Titanic more direct and emotionally than the artifacts that you will see.

There are 240 artifacts at the Indiana State Museum. They tell the story of the maiden voyage of Titanic. It starts out with you actually boarding the ship. You receive a boarding pass when you enter. On the back of that boarding pass there is a name of an actual passenger. You know your name, your class of service, your age, where you are going, whom you are with; everything you would ever want to now about one of those passengers. But you don’t know your fate until the last gallery. We have the ships manifest on the wall in the final gallery. You look for your name and you look to see if you survived or perished. It really is an experience you will never forget.