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If you’re looking for a temporary exhibition that draws a crowd and is affordable and easy to install, Exhibit Envoy is your ideal resource! We offer exhibitions that reflect the richness of California’s arts, culture, and natural environment. Browse our list of available exhibitions and view our library of installation images. Then, give us a call to book your next traveling exhibition. For more info on how to rent from us, see our How To Host page.

Unmentionable: The Indiscreet Stories of Artifacts

AUDIENCE: Adults, Teens

LICENSING FEE: $500/institution for unlimited use

SIZE: Flexible for Any Gallery


Explore the difficult, unusual, and uncomfortable artifacts in your museum's collection with Unmentionable's framework and graphics.

"In a museum setting, once 'unmentionable' topics are connected to physical objects that illustrate a moment in time, or a social movement, or a person, or a place. While many subjects are no longer shocking per se, seeing the object that represents that story can be uncomfortable to look at. It can also be difficult for a museum to figure out when to display that item and how to tell its story. And that’s what Unmentionable: The Indiscreet Stories of Artifacts is all about: the unusual, icky, scandalous, disturbing, awful, uncomfortable and surprising artifacts in museum collections all in one place.

A few artifacts may not have been displayed because the item represents or illustrates a controversial moment in history. Some artifacts have been displayed before, because they’re cool looking or relate to a certain period, but the story of the artifact itself—what it is, what it was used for, who owned it—wasn’t fully explored because that story was not necessarily a pleasant one. Other items may not seem so scandalous now but were at one time because they are the type of item that was not generally discussed in “polite” society. There are artifacts that are commonplace, things we’ve all seen before, but don’t really think about what the item is for or how it was used.

The exhibition highlights not only the stuff we don’t talk about but gives a peak behind the curtain of museum collections and practices. Just because an artifact could be considered scandalous, outrageous, gross, unseemly, odd, disturbing, controversial or unimportant by some doesn’t mean we shouldn’t collect it. Those artifacts could and will become important to future generations to understand what a place, a people, a person, or eras were like."
- Diane Curry, the originating curator

The exhibition is designed to mimic the concept of the “cabinet of curiosities,” and each artifact is treated as a specimen. Each object receives its own detailed label with the object name, date, catalog number, category, description, curator’s note, and donor. The design can easily be adjusted for any gallery space and exhibit furniture.

Examples of artifacts that can be displayed in this exhibition include:

  • Mortuary items (carrying basket, mourning costume)
  • Nazi flag or armband
  • Historical undergarments (corset, petticoat, stocking, nightgown)
  • Racist imagery from advertisements, school mascots, and sheet music
  • Photographs taken at a concentration camp
  • Medical equipment (speculum, bone saw, tooth extractor)
  • Sewer cleaning system
  • Nude photography

The fee for this exhibition includes the following materials (unlimited usage within a single institution):

  • Full, detailed suggested artifact list to help you search your own collections
  • Complete set of graphics (templates in InDesign and/or Word, based upon your software), including the exhibition logo, introduction, secondary panel, curator's statement, and artifact labels of various sizes
  • Sample text for artifacts and the introduction
  • Programming suggestions
  • Exhibition press kit
  • Instructions for building an inexpensive "cabinet of curiosities"

Unmentionable: The Indiscreet Stories of Artifacts is modeled on the original exhibition from the Hayward Area Historical Society in Hayward, CA and facilitated by Exhibit Envoy.

TOP: Sample artifact/specimen label for a Civil War era tooth extractor from the Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS). 2ND ROW: Unmentionable and a cabinet of curiosities at the Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS). BOTTOM: Unusual and uncomfortable mortuary artifacts on display at HAHS. Photo by Paul Kuroda, East Bay Times.


Previous Exhibitors: Hayward Area Historical Society, Hayward, CA
  Lake County Museums, Clear Lake, CA
  City of Greeley Museums, Greeley, CO