Museum studies, week 3

Journal entry, which is explained in the previous post, for week three of Museum Studies. Discusses two articles we read to prepare for class discussion-- one about the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and the other about the history of history museums and historic preservation in the U.S. Both great topics. Also a blip about my work on our class exhibit project. The "Revisiting the Past: History Museums in the U.S." has been lingering in my mind since I read it several days ago. I did not know very much about Ford's propulsion of his own version of historic preservation, or the formation of Greenfield Village. Neither did I know anything about Rockefeller, Jr.'s role restoring Colonial Williamsburg, VA. The details about their roles in preserving U.S. history (and both the positives and negatives of their projects) were quite fascinating.

I have spent some time studying revisionist historians' role in changing the face of and perspectives regarding American history; I have also studied the movement towards pluralistic, social history that bloomed in the 1960s-70s. But I had never considered those movements to revise historic traditions and perceptions in the context of the MUSEUM-- that proved the most enlightening element of the article. It seems simple to me now, and obvious that the museum world would have to be adjusted as women, African Americans, Native Americans and others were writing a more dynamic American history. But prior to this I had not made that connection. The museum's role is an important element of the story of American history (and its recent revisions), so I found this article very worthwhile.

I found it surprising that prior to the founding, mid-nineteenth century, of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, there was not a large  or well-orchestrated effort to obtain or maintain historic sites and houses. The women who had organized before that were somewhat successful, but I suppose it is taken for granted, in today's world of UNESCO sites and national parks, that spots of intrinsic value have not always been valued as they are now.

The article was well-worth the read, as I have made several connections to other historical trends I've studied; it has also remained in my brain, where I continue to ponder the main points. To me, that is the mark of a strong piece of writing.

On a different note, I have been looking into the photos for my exhibit panels, and have found several that may work for the introduction. I am very interested to visit Tuskegee during our upcoming field trip, particularly now that I am part of the team that is working on the "Why Tuskegee" panel. The history of that area, Booker T. Washington, and the field and institution will all come to life, I feel, when I can see them myself and have the place in my mind. Looking forward to it.

Newseum was a curiosity, to say the least. I am not sure what to make of it, and can certainly see the reason behind the controversy (both the topic being covered and the investors who funded it). Nevertheless, it seems a bit inevitable, albeit sad, that visitors today are lured to flashy, technology-driven exhibits and museums. The average citizen might prefer it to quiet, reading-based, reflective museums. It is a real issue facing the museum world today, and technology will probably never be able to be entirely left out of museums as an element in telling the stories of history. The trick will be making it just as thought-provoking. Well-made videos can do this-- I know I have seen several excellent ones while visiting exhibits and museums in the past.