New interactive exhibit celebrates 125 years of Parker Pen

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, November 8, 2013

JANESVILLE—An exhibit honoring the success of one of Janesville's most famous brands is being moved from the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum to the Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St.

"It's part of a business plan created by the city of Janesville and the Rock County Historical Society's board,” said Mike Reuter, society executive director.

But the move also fits with Reuter's idea to expand awareness and outreach of the historical society and the society's initiative of creating a stronger sense of outreach, he said.

While the exhibit recognizes the history of Parker Pen, an integral company that helped shape the social fabric of Janesville, “it also extends the branch of the Rock County Historical Society out into the community,” Reuter said.

Jackie Wood, co-owner of Olde Towne Mall and society president, was willing to have the organization use the building as a traveling exhibit venue, Reuter said.

The location is ideal, he said, because “it's in the heart of downtown Janesville with a lot of foot traffic and is a good, safe, secure venue.”

“Making Their Mark: 125 Years of Parker Pen,” is a model exhibit the society wants to showcase. It features an interactive kiosk—stand-alone, 27-inch multi-touch screens users visit for six interactive experiences.

For example, one component of the exhibit focuses on “What Parker Pen are You?" asking kiosk users to identify which Parker Pen most embodies them and why.

“It's a fun way to connect people to different Parker Pen brands, plus it gives them a sense of how the brand affected them personally,” Reuter said.

Another exhibit element provides an interactive timeline with photos attached to dates that users can move forward or backward with a touch on the screen.

The exhibit also features a history of the company and the Parker family, pens and other items made by Parker Pen, advertising used by the company and information about the Penettes--exclusively female tour guides who worked at the company until 1979. In addition, Parker Pen band music recorded earlier this year at UW-Rock County will be featured.

“It's a really forward-thinking, interactive exhibit and the type of impressive and interactive exhibits the society will be creating moving forward,” Reuter said.

“This is a gigantic leap for the Rock County Historical Society given our budget and museum size to be able to pull off this interactive and kind of exhibit. I'm proud we're making this next step in our evolution,” he said.

Reuter said he is always trying to push the envelope with museum exhibits.

“I do get very excited when we have the opportunity to integrate technology to see how our audience and users are going to interact and respond,” he said.

Reuter also is anxious to see if this interactive exhibit will attract a new demographic to the society.

 “It's really the next evolution of exhibit programming that the historical society will be releasing to the community,” Reuter said. “This is a sneak peek to the type of exhibits people can eventually expect at the Rock County Historical Society campus.”

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