Waste Not, Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not

Shiloh Museum ‘makes do’ with online exhibit


Northwest Arkansas might not be in the middle of a Great Depression, but an adage from the 1930s rings true in these days of a global pandemic: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” An exhibit currently open — online — at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History was being formulated around that phrase long before covid-19 made it seem prophetic.

“We plan our exhibits and programs a year in advance, so this exhibit has been on the books, so to speak, since February 2019,” says Marie Demeroukas, the museum’s research librarian, photo archivist and the curator of “Make Do.” “It didn’t change at all in terms of the focus of it, but its relevancy became more apparent when I realized earlier this year that the exhibit was scheduled to open a few days after the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Serendipity! I had already planned to make all the exhibit pedestals, artifact mounts and other items out of old cardboard and chipboard boxes.”

The Shiloh Museum’s “Make Do” exhibit features 25 historic items, covering a hundred-year span from 1860, represented by a gourd baby rattle, to 1968, depicted by a bong made from a Scope mouthwash bottle.
(Courtesy Photo/Shiloh Museum)

However, she adds, “it was fairly obvious by early March that the pandemic was going to interrupt so much of our daily lives. When the museum closed to the public on March 16, I knew that we had to shift gears and turn ‘Make Do’ into an online exhibit.

“Fortunately, outreach coordinator and webmaster Susan Young created a spiffy version of it for our website,” Demeroukas says. “I had always planned on a hands-on upcycling craft to accompany the exhibit — turning a cereal box into a small gift box— so our photographer Bo Williams created a YouTube video demonstrating how to make one. He also shot photos of all the artifacts and made a virtual tour of the exhibit, so you can see it in all its cardboard glory. We wouldn’t have gone these extra steps if it had only been a physical exhibit.”

According to Demeroukas, the exhibit features 25 historic items, covering a hundred-year span from 1860, represented by a gourd baby rattle, to 1968, depicted by a bong made from a Scope mouthwash bottle.

“These and the other items represent the ‘make do’ portion of the exhibit — items that out of necessity people turned from one thing into another,” Demeroukas says. “Dresses made from feed sacks, a flour bin made from wood crates, a crutch made from a tree limb — all of these items speak to the notion of ‘waste not, want not.’”

But Demeroukas is a firm believer that a history museum must not focus on the past without encompassing the present.

“Whenever I do an exhibit, I like to connect its theme to modern day,” she says. “Upcycling is today’s complement to making do. Rather than repurposing items out of necessity, upcycled items are a form of recycling, a way to create something of value while reducing waste in area landfills. We were fortunate to find such interesting and diverse upcyclers to lend items to the exhibit — folks who turn cigar boxes into guitars, plastic bags into crocheted tote bags and even shipping containers into homes.

“I don’t see the pandemic affecting upcycling so much,” Demeroukas muses, “but I do think that many folks will be making do in the months ahead, because of the sad reality of millions of unemployed Americans who will likely need to make do with what they have for now, by mending and improvising. We’ve also seen a lot of make-do efforts in terms of mask making, such as using old T-shirts.”

Although it is available online right now, the exhibit will also be waiting at the Springdale museum whenever its doors reopen. Director Allyn Lord says the museum is “closed and meetings and events canceled through at least the end of June to help flatten the curve and prevent the spread of covid-19.”

“While we miss seeing everyone face-to-face, we have amped up our digital offerings, continue to provide assistance for researchers and maintain our grounds and gardens, and are doing renovation work on several of our buildings,” she says. “We look forward to having folks back on-site soon!”


Go Online!

‘Make Do’

Visit the “Make Do” exhibit online at https://shilohmuseum.org/project/make-do/. You can take a virtual tour, examine and read about all the artifacts and meet local upcyclers who transform old clothes into “something that can be worn and appreciated, while preserving and honoring their original construction and aesthetic”; make guitars out of cigar boxes; built their home out of six shipping containers; and turn plastic bags into tote bags. Photos from the museum’s extensive collection also compare making do to today’s upcycling.

Watch a video on how to turn a cereal box into a gift box at shilohmuseum.org/project/make-do/.

Online access to the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History is free.

Categories: Galleries