Even though Timothy Luke’s ideas were interesting I didn’t find him particularly easy to read. I found myself going to the computer to look up more information and get images of what he was discussing in his writing. I found the catalog for “The West as America”http://people.virginia.edu/~mmw3v/west/home.htm and the websites for the Autry Museum, the Heard Museum, the Fred Harvey Company, and the Pima Air and Space Museum. I also looked through other articles about the Enola Gay exhibit controversy. Even though I couldn’t go to a museum and see the actual paintings in the exhibit “The West as America”, the internet allowed me to still see these paintings grouped together and the texts that accompanied the exhibit 20 years later. I love to go to museums, but if controversy is going to hinder my ability to view something there are ways around that now with digital technology. I even use the internet to look at non-controversial exhibits in places I wouldn’t be able to go. Anymore, I don’t think people are dependent on museums and what they contain is actually more accessible to more people.
When I lived in New York City I was able to go and see the Robert Maplethorpe photos that were so controversial. Now all one has to do is enter his name on Google and voila! The photos appear.
By coincidence this morning I was finishing reading David Sedaris’ book When You are Engulfed in Flames. He describes when he and his partner are in Japan and they visit the Hiroshima Memorial Museum. “Just when you’d think that it couldn’t get any sadder, you’d come upon another display case, one in particular with a tag reading, ‘Nails and skin left by a twelve-year-old boy.’ This boy, we learned, was burned in the blast, and subsequently grew so thirsty that he tried to drink the pus from his infected fingers. He died, and his mother kept his nails and the surrounding skin to show to her husband, who’d gone off to work that day the bomb was dropped but never came home.” I started thinking about how the Japanese or tourists to Japan could go and see this side of “event” that was not acceptable to some in the “Crossroads” exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. Then I stopped and went again to Google and found the website and virtual museum.
I don’t doubt that debates will continue to go on about what is politically correct for the public to view in museums, but if attempts at censoring continue there will be much more involved than just cancelling an exhibit.