Developer Discourse: Iconic Artifacts

What is an iconic artifact? Is it an object central to a historical event? Is it a symbol representing larger themes and ideas? Iconic artifacts take many forms—from the Lewis and Clark’s journals to Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. But iconic artifacts share one characteristic: as touchstones to the past, they evoke visceral reactions from visitors.

Visitors react emotionally when they encounter the “real thing”—not just a picture or replica of an artifact. The tangible, iconic artifact sparks curiosity and inspires visitors to learn more. Historical objects, images, and stories help visitors build connections with the past and understand how that past informs the present. An iconic artifact draws visitors into the story, engaging them in the exhibit’s interpretation and message.

At Split Rock Studios, our creative teams seamlessly integrate iconic artifacts into exhibit experiences, building connections between visitors and the past. At Ford’s Theatre: Rediscovering Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth’s Derringer pistol is a tangible connection to President Lincoln’s assassination—this small gun had a profound impact on the nation’s history. The pistol draws visitors in and serves as the gateway to learning about Lincoln’s presidency.

If you would like to speak about an iconic artifact in your institution’s collection, give us a call.