In this week’s readings there were ideas of how a museums can become a platform for controversial topics and how current issues can be discussed openly. Most often museums are thought of as solely a place for objects. Some objects are more thought provoking than others, and they can generate ideas and discussion. But can museums take a firm position on controversial topics and events –like the Ferguson riots? It seems particularly difficult because over 80% of museum goers are white and middle class and likely do not understand racial issues. It would be great for museums to be able to take a firm option on these topics and not receive backlash for trying to engage and educate their public. Is this kind of “education” worth the possibly losing paying members?
Most museums are places to contemplate the past and not the future. When museums first started they were seen as places of enlightenment, average people who did not have the money of the upper class, came to learn about new places and thing that they might not know about otherwise. The museum was also seen as a place where people could get away from the monotony of their daily lives and travel through pictures and objects. Fast forwarding to present day the museum is seen as a communal area of escape almost like a mall. There are nice things to see and maybe some things to buy, but it is not a place where there is much deep thinking going on. Oh there’s the occasional exhibition that proves to be thought provoking but that is not happening in the majority of museum spaces. Museums aren’t institutions that invite change. To tackle a challenge like Ferguson would be to challenge core ideas that we were taught in all though out primary school. I don’t know if it would be possible to shake things up like that.
According to one article that I read, the Missouri History Museums collection manager and team went to places that had been devastated in Ferguson to find artifacts. How are destroyed objects going to educate the typical museum goers? As I read the article they were not trying to help the situation they were just collecting items they thought might have some kind of importance later and items that represented the devastation and emotion of what happen. I guess it is important to collect artifacts to show what was going on, but what about the people in the area how are they affected by the situation and what does it mean for them? They are so close to the area of unrest that they would have a perfect platform to effect some change but they are more interested in pieces that they can place on display and generate their own narrative that may or may not lead to thought provoking insights.
Many museums don’t have a section that talks about struggle. The ones that do talk about struggle are small and do not have the same kind of clout to effect bigger change. There are many parallels between what happen during the 60’s with the civil rights movement and what is going on today. Maybe this can be the starting point of making paths between controversy and advocacy. By showing museum goers that struggles of minorities from the 60’s are still present in today’s minority communities.
Is it possible for a place like the MET or museum with the clout of the MET to become a place for discussion of hot topics or is this just a lofty goal that might not be attainable?
 Farrel, B. (2010). Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums. Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://www.aam-us.org/docs/center-for-the-future-of-museums/demotransaam2010.pdf
 Hampel, P. (2015, January 29). Museum excavates burned Dellwood business for artifacts from Ferguson unrest. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/museum-excavates-burned-dellwood-business-for-artifacts-from-ferguson-unrest/article_0fb42cc9-836d-552f-b556-4dca952f674e.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed
 Anderson, R. (2015, May 1). Public History Commons. Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://publichistorycommons.org/the-ncph-meets-in-baltimore-next-year/#more-8043
Lightly Edited from Original by Anita Brown