Letting Go? Part II

Having community input on projects is so important. If a community or a committee of people want to create an art piece, a museum gallery, or an exhibition of any kind that surrounds a particular place or group of people, it is of the utmost importance that there is input by those people. In the chapter regarding the Black Bottom neighborhood, they talk about how the community members of Black Bottom had the final say on any of the scenes that were to be performed. I think this is one of the most important parts of public history. With the approval and input of the Black Bottomers, they allowed the community to truly tell their story and their history without it being patronizing or told incorrectly. If you start an exhibition on the history of cattle ranchers but have never spoken to a cattle rancher, then what is the point?

The reason why I am so on-board with user-generated content and public history projects like the ones talked about in Letting Go? is because of the real power it can give communities and groups of people if done right. And this is exactly why I am all about StoryCorps. “First, and most directly, StoryCorps sets out to spark a shift in historical understanding: it wants to demonstrate powerfully, viscerally, exhaustively that ordinary people shape history.”(pg. 177) They’re focused on breaking the mold of top-down history telling, which I am very passionate about. “If museums tell stories–rich, complex ones that engage emotions–then visitors will engage, reflect, and, likely, be moved to tell stories of their own.” (pg. 189) History to me should be based on the bottom-up storytelling and StoryCorps is a great example of how this can be done well. People will always be passionate about their own history and their own stories and if museums and historians can incorporate that kind of passion into exhibits, classrooms, and galleries, then maybe historians won’t be the only people to care about history.

Public history should be seen as a way of collaborating (with either artists, communities, or just people in general) that ultimately strengthens public history as a whole. While museums and historians shouldn’t give up their academic discipline and authority over collections and interpretations, they should be open to collaborations and input from communities in order to strengthen their work and bring everyone into the fold of the beauty of history.

2 thoughts on “Letting Go? Part II”

  1. I completely agree that collaboration and asking people what they want is the way to move towards more inclusive museum experiences. I love that we, the readers, can really sense you’re excited about all these efforts. I think this kind of passion is so important regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish. When you’re enthusiastic about something it makes people much more willing to listen and get interested in what you have to say.

  2. Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. Why is it that historians feel the need to tell people how their own history happened? Let them tell you. It will empower the people and the exhibit if you do. There are so many great stories out there why not let them be told?

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