The Dream

Earlier this year, when Amanda Schwartz, Director of the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, Iowa, and Jacque Rahe, Executive Director of Dyersville Economic Development Corporation approached us with an idea to turn a small downtown boutique into a temporary museum exhibit about the 1989 blockbuster film, Field of Dreams, we said “ABSOLUTELY!”

The old boutique definitely had some unique quirks. Rustic barn board walls, two dressing rooms, giant metal beams, and merchandise racks and shelves used by the previous occupant. The layout was rather narrow and we had less than 1,000 square feet to work with, it was a real curveball (see what I did there?). But it was a challenge we quickly accepted.

From Boutique to Museum

Partnering with the Dyersville team, we planned the layout, content, and visitor flow to create a linear story that honored the legacy of the film. We started with the inspiration behind the film – the 1919 World Series and the scandal surrounding the alleged throwing of the game by Shoeless Joe Jackson and other members of the Chicago White Sox.

Then we moved onto the book, Shoeless Joe written by Canadian author, W.P. Kinsella (fun fact: he wrote the book while attending an Iowa Writers Workshop – another Iowa connection!). We told the story of how the book became a script picked up by Universal Studios, how actors were selected for their roles, and fun facts about what it was like to film onsite.

Lastly, we told the story of how the Dyersville community has been positively impacted by the film. Movie site-turned tourism attraction, the field brings approximately 100,000 baseball and movie fans each year, many of whom visit Dyersville and contribute to its growing economy.

Look n’ Feel

The design was a carefully choreographed effort led by Creative Director, Josh Nelson, who artistically compiled stories, images, and themes into a meaningful experience for visitors.

“I took design cues from iconic baseball elements while creating a sense of elegance to the design to help elevate the austerity of the exhibit. This was a great project to work on and the design came naturally.”

From Fenway Park Green (yes, that’s a real color) and elements of scoring abbreviations, to giving recognition to actors, extras, and land owners – it was all orchestrated in a purposeful way that ensured visitors explored a welcoming museum space.

When it came down to the materials for this temporary exhibit, we looked to master of all materials – Matt Nielsen. “Creating a temporary exhibit provided some design challenges. The choice of materials and hardware was based on leaving minimal evidence the exhibit had ever been there. We installed a full museum experience that was durable, functional, visually exciting, and most importantly, removable.”

Nothing Can Stop Us

Efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in Illinois took effect in mid-March – as we were approximately a third of the way through the project. But we never slowed down. The vast majority of this exhibit was designed, planned, and written while we were working at home from mid-March through the beginning of June. We took every advantage of video calls, chats, and many, many, many rounds of proofs. Of course, advantage was also taken of pajamas, fur-colleagues, and LOTS of coffee. 🙂

It never ceases to amaze me what we can do with teamwork and creativity – even in the wake of unexpected events.
I’m so proud to be a member of this team.
We go the distance. Every. Single. Time.

…They Will Come…

The If You Build It Exhibit was intended to coincide with the 2020 MLB game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees played adjacent to the original Field of Dreams film site. However, the game has been rescheduled to 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the game’s postponement, the exhibit is still open to visitors. And it’s just a 10-minute drive into Dyersville from the Field of Dreams film site. For more information about tickets, directions, and other news, visit the museum’s website here.

*Also, you can get a pretty neat photo op with a life-size Kevin Coster, so if that’s not a good enough reason to visit, I don’t know what is. 🙂

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay creative.

Julia Evans
Museum Services Project Manager