Against the Grain

I will preface my comments by saying that I recently had an argument with a family member that may be coloring my perspective of this material. In reading these articles I found myself wanting to go against the grain, to question some of the assumptions I think are being made. In particular the ones surrounding Black Lives Matter. I accept the premise that the issue isn’t one only for African American Museums and African Americans to address. I also accept the premise that museums should challenge the status quo. Having said that I need to ask, “Are the limits to museum’s responsibilities?” Should all museums spend time looking for ways to address issues of race, or other discriminated groups such as LBGT? If I go the Historic Roseberry Museum in Donnelly, Idaho, should I expect something on Black Lives Matter? Should there be exhibits at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West about sexual identity and gender-related issues? My point is that not all museums have materials with which to connect to current events and, outside of major metropolitan areas, most museums don’t have a clientele interested in these topics. Should they be presented anyway?Grinch image


Of the articles I read, the LaBlond article resonated with me the most. Museum Island has amazing collections and to have refugees from the origin sites of some of their collection provides a perspective that would be informative and amazing. For those from the worn torn regions, this is clearly a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with their heritage. As Kefah Ali Deeb notes in the UNHCR video, there is also an opportunity to see a community that was rebuilt after an all-out war destroyed it.  If the guides make that connection for museum visitors it could indeed give them hope for the future of their own countries. As an American, I would love to have an English-language tour of the museums with the same presenters. That would give me an opportunity to connect with their homelands and their heritage in a way that would be unique and very meaningful.

In closing, I want to ask the question I posed at the beginning, “What are the limits to museum’s responsibilities?” As a follow up to that question, who is responsible for determining those limits? Curators? Directors? Donors? Visitors?

One thought on “Against the Grain”

  1. No, I definitely don’t think it’s up to every single museum to talk about these things. But there are museums that are situated in just the right place at the right time, and may already contain artifacts and exhibits that would allow them to make connections between the past and present. I think of historical or cultural museums in places like Ferguson, or Baltimore, who could take some of the chaos surrounding those murders and the subsequent uprisings, and put them in a historical context. I would suggest the same for cities that, say, experienced large turnouts to the Women’s March in January. It’s not up to everyone, but those who have the opportunity to say something meaningful and can put it in perspective, definitely should.

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