Museums Hanging in the Balance

Museums are sources of historical knowledge for communities. In addition, museums hold significant memorabilia that are specific to politically, economic, and cultural heritages. From these miscellaneous pasts curators, can develop, master and transport their audience into to a whole new dimension. Nevertheless, museums hang in the balance between delivering true history, and dealing with civilian recoil over hot button topics.

After the reading of Mickey Mouse History, Chapters 1 & 2, the book brings to light how economic standing influenced the basis in which museums are erected. In chapter one Wallace, notes that “capitalists” like John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and Henry Ford joined groups like the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Associations, and the Golden Sons, to promote public history. However, Rockefeller and Ford also had a hidden agenda. They were each capitalistic men conspiring with the dominate class of their time without inherently knowing it. People like Ford and Rockefeller were a part of a higher economic and capitalistic class. Despite belonging to these public history committees, the connective theme in Mickey Mouse History chapter two, is how people change the content of museums and thereby change people’s interpretation of history. The result of this is that in museums, there is a misrepresentation of a lack of economic and racial diversity that is not analogous of the true history.

In the Open Letter to the Curators of the Baron Von Munchausen House, it is evident that historical misrepresentation continues today. In the event of this particular museum, the topic of slavery was omitted from the display, as well as the factually accurate average age of marriage, and additional simply false information. These falsities in a museum highlight the effect of erasing seemingly insignificant facts from history. While it seemed appropriate for the curators to remove this part of history, for the sake of children being averted from the harsh reality of history, we must ask; should anything be removed? After reading the curator’s response to Cebula’s letter, it becomes clear that museums indeed hang in the balance between true history, and compromise for the sake of ‘customer satisfaction’. It appears even today only the comfortable parts of history are represented.

This issue is addressed again with the celebration of James Glover in Facing History. According to the reading, he is remembered well and is held in high honor as the “Father of Spokane”. However, it was later found out that he might not have been as honorable as history would let us believe. Certain events including his abrupt divorce of his wife of twenty-four years – Suzan T. Glover – and having her sent to the Medical Lake Ward on a case of insanity, sheds a new light on James Glover. Whether or not the absence of these facts about his life were intentionally or unintentionally left out, it seems most prevalent, and controversial in Spokane’s community. It raises the question of idolizing someone in history despite a record of very un-honorable actions. This question becomes much broader when seen in conjunction with the other readings. In this same respect, all history can be misconstrued, misrepresented or even manipulated to change how people see history, and remove parts of it, which should never have been forgotten.


3 thoughts on “Museums Hanging in the Balance

  1. Hey Ashley,

    Nice post! You did a really great job of presenting all of the readings in a cohesive manner, and then raising some thought-provoking questions. I have also been thinking a lot about when, if ever, it is appropriate to remove certain facts from our presentation of history for the sake of “customer satisfaction,” as you put it.

    The only suggestion I have is possibly adding links for the articles that are online, so it is easier to reference back to them.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Over all this is a well written piece with good insight. Its interesting how popular interest or the interest of those who are forking out the money are displayed in historical pieces like museums which you would think would give you some of the most in-depth insight and accurate story. I agree with Katie in making sure to add hyperlinks to your article, if you need any help just ask.


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