I work with students, communities, and museums to develop and design interpretive projects that range between topics focused on American history and technology to the presentation of science and environmental issues. I have worked with museums in the development and design of major exhibitions like " A More Perfect Union", that focus on cultural issues such as Japanese American internment during WW II; with students on interpretive projects that explore the meanings of cultural artifacts or issues of species endangerment; and communities on projects that identify history and place. In these projects, and in my own artwork, I pursue opportunities to analyze, and utilize cultural objects and the American landscape as symbols and repositories of cultural meaning and memory. 

Dru Colbert


Select Projects:

People of the First Light 

Lead designer and content developer for a major permanent exhibition at the Abbe museum that showcases Wabanaki culture in Maine. This decolonization project presents Wabanaki perspectives as the primary focus and involves native artists, scientists, and educators in its content and design. The exhibition includes archeological artifacts, cultural artifacts and digital interactive entry points for learning about encounter and contemporary issues.

The Ashley Bryan Center 

Lead designer for a special exhibition on the work and influences of renowned children’s book author Ashley Bryan. The approx. 500 sq. foot exhibition contains a vast array of original artwork including oil paintings, wood block prints, collage, and three-dimensional puppets. Interpretive elements include hands-on interactive and video elements, a timeline of Ashley’s life and influences, casework containing myriad objects and multiple large-scale graphics.

The Maine State Museum, Augusta, ME 

Malaga Island”, Lead designer for a 2000 sq. ft special exhibition that explores the controversial history of Malaga Island, Maine. The exhibition showcases historic documents, photographs, documents, objects and archeological artifacts recovered by the University of Southern Maine. “At Home in Maine”, 2009 - Lead design team member responsible for the conceptual development and planning for a major permanent exhibition on the history of domestic life patterns in Maine to occupy approximately 7,000 square feet in the Maine State Museum. Planning includes space configuration; the development of experiential exhibition spaces; interactive exhibition components, both mechanical and audio visual; and collateral projects such as a web-based exhibit, special presentation areas, and community collaboration on the development of special exhibit areas. 

National Park Service: The Acadia National Park Nature Center 

Guided College of the Atlantic Students in a course to design conceptual plans for the proposed Acadia National Park Nature Center in Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. Work that resulted in this course serves a guide for Park Service staff in the ongoing developments of the interpretive content of the Nature Center.

The Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, ME

Primary consulting designer for the planning and design of special exhibits, orientation exhibits, and exterior/interior identification and wayfinding for the Abbe Museum. The museum celebrates Maine’s Native American Heritage and presents contemporary native culture, history, and archeology. Select exhibits include: The permanent exhibition People of the First Light (2016); Indians and Rusticators, 2012/2011; By Native Hands (2008), The Frank Seibert Collection (2004), ‘The Basket Room’, The Anne Molloy Howell Collection’ and ‘Layers of Time: 75 Years of Archaeology at the Abbe’ (2003); The inaugural main gallery exhibition entitled 'Four Mollys: Women of the Dawnland' uses an extensive collection of native artifacts and 'stage set' period evocations to present native history through case histories of four generations of Wabanaki women. (2002-03). Orientation exhibits at the Abbe, completed in 2002 include: 'Ways of Knowing' which introduces methods of learning about the past as presented at the Abbe - Native oral tradition, archaeology, and ethnography. This exhibit expands into a 'touchable timeline' which takes visitors back in time - using touchable casts, natural objects, native stories and artifacts - as they progress through the building. 'The Wabanaki in Maine Today' is an audio/visual orientation space presenting contemporary native perspectives. A full-scale diorama interprets archeological methods, tools and techniques.


The George B. Dorr Natural History Museum

Strategic program planning and design direction to facilitate use of College of the Atlantic’s natural history museum as a learning laboratory for students interested in museum studies, education and exhibition design. Select programs and special interpretation projects developed by students for the George B. Dorr Museum include: “Our Best Classroom – Acadia National Park”; The Ingenious Mr. Peale; 'Human Ecologist: Bill Drury’; ‘Art and Nature’; ‘What is Organic?’; ‘George B. Dorr and the Creation of Acadia National Park’; and ‘Extinction Then and Now: Photographs by Rosamond Purcell’ . Annual changing exhibits, created by students for the George B Dorr museum created in the context of a course entitled “Curiosity and Wonder’.  2004 – Present

Plants and Animals in Peril: Maine’s Endangered Species

Directed students at the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, in the development and design of a traveling exhibition focused on issues surrounding species endangerment in Maine.  The exhibition engages viewers through taxidermy mounts, diorama, touchable cast models, hands-on activity stations, and a video presentation. The exhibition, designed to travel in the display case bases in multiple breakdown parts, is flexible in configuration to fit a variety of site conditions and sizes. It opened at the George B. Dorr Natural History Museum in 2001, and travelled throughout Maine until 2008.

“How We Discover”, Smithsonian Institution

Key team member for the conceptual planning phase of a proposed collaborative exhibition between the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation. The project, scheduled to open at the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building in the year 2000, focuses on the process of discovery, how scientific knowledge advances, and the characteristic activities of scientists and engineers.  

Main Exhibition Hall and Currency Exhibit, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Consultant for the design of visitor orientation and interpretive exhibition space on the main floor of the Federal Reserve Bank Building in Chicago, IL. Topics include the history of banking and the social function and significance of the Federal Reserve System. Principal designer for content and development of an exhibit pertaining to cash processing at the Federal Reserve Bank. The exhibit is part of the bank's guided public tour.  

The DuPage Heritage Gallery

Principal designer for this artifact intensive, interactive and expandable exhibition honoring citizens with roots in DuPage County, Illinois who have contributed nationally and globally to the arts, sciences, industry and technology.  

Brownsville's Flatiron Building, Orientation and Interpretive Center

Principal designer, in collaboration with an historian and educator, to develop a visitor orientation and conceptual exhibit plan within the historic Flatiron Building, Brownsville, Pennsylvania.  The exhibits of the Flatiron Center will use Brownsville as a case study to explore distinct periods in American History - the westward movement and the era of peak coal and coke production.  A history laboratory is planned for visitor research and community archival projects. Community members and volunteers are involved collaboratively in the project development and fabrication of project components as a skill-building opportunity. The Flatiron building will be a key interpretive center marking the crossroads of the National Road Heritage Park Corridor and the Steel Industry Heritage Corridor.  For the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation

“River of Grass”, Florida Everglades, US. Park Service Visitor Center

Project team member in the conceptual development of exhibit components, principle designer of graphic elements and way finding devices within exhibit and visitor orientation areas. Exhibits in the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, the main visitor center at the Homestead Florida entrance to Everglades National Park, pertain to the Everglades habitats and water control issues. Interpretive areas center around a life-scale diorama of an alligator hole and include a video birdwatching alcove, interactive fiber optic water control map, murals and maps depicting habitats and wildlife.  For Howard/Revis Design, 1993

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Visitor Center

Key team member responsible for design development of "The Wisdom of Wildness" - a major exhibition at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center. Exhibits range from the presentation of global environmental issues to the work of the USFWS in habitat areas and with endangered species. Full scale diorama are used extensively to show species endangered and on the brink of extinction. USFWS work in the field is interpreted using computer and mechanical interactive devices.  A specially designed alcove overlooking a wetland allows visitors to track and monitor animals from the exhibit space.  For Jeff Howard Design Services.

Chief of Design and Senior Exhibition Designer at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (1980 - 1991)

Selected Exhibition Projects at the National Museum of American History:                                             

• Land of Promise/Land of Paradox; conceptual planning and fund-raising materials for a major exhibition showcasing the museum's 19th century collection

• A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution; Principal designer for a major exhibition on the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War ll and the constitutional implications of this government action

• The Ceremonial Court; facilitated the recreation of architectural elements from the 1902 McKim, Mead and White restoration of the White House for use as an exhibit presentation and special event space

• Museum Orientation; directed design for a storefront facade evocative of 19th Century architectural styles for the museum's primary information and retail area

• 1776 Demonstration Gallery; division of military history a/v and live interpretation area

• New and Different: Eighteenth Century Domestic Interiors

• At Home on the Road; Autocamping, Motels and the Rediscovery of America