Monthly Archives: March 2017

Eastern State Penitentiary: How a Prison Museum Responded

Prisons for many people are a place that they hope to never visit. Eastern State Penitentiary is an exception to that rule. At Eastern State visitors can learn about Pep the dog, Al Capone, and other famous prisoners that stayed at Eastern State. While many visitors may view these people that were incarcerated at Eastern State as exciting figures from the past they are also forced to deal with issues from the present. The primary issue that Eastern State attempts to deal with is mass incarceration. During my time at Eastern State I had the opportunity to speak to a tour guide and one of the leaders of interpretation. During this discussion a ranking of those who went to Eastern State was one of the topics. On the one end was those who were directly connected to prisons and on the other were those who treated the experience as a vacation getaway and did not feel any connection to prison reform. Holocaust history faces a similar issue because some people have a direct connection to the Holocaust while others deny that it ever happened. Some of the ways that Eastern State tried to reach all of these varying audiences was by creating an exhibit about prison reform and by inviting former prisoners. In the exhibit about prison reform people are encouraged to write about an experience in which they broke the law. People can read what others have written both during their visit from Eastern State and from prisoners. This helps create empathy through participation.

I Object: The Atlantic City Trump Museum Project and its Objects

Recently Levi Fox, a doctorate student at Temple University, visited my public history class. During this visit he discussed his effort to create a museum focused around Trump’s legacy in Atlantic City. He hoped that such a museum would be able to create much needed heritage tourism. During his presentation he displayed a few objects such as a beach towel from the Taj Mahal. A similar towel may be found on Ebay currently at the low price of $1,000.

While listening to Fox discuss the objects and how some of them were donated by Trump supporters who assumed that Fox and the museum take a pro Trump stance it made me consider Nina Simon’s, “Participatory Design and the Future of Museums.” Simon starts off by discussing the history of the internet and how the internet is similar to a museum with many different people submitting objects and everyone treasuring their own. Much like the internet i am sure that individuals are curious about how their objects are displayed and wish to be involved in the process. One of the classical examples that I think about is a small tag that states who donated the object. During class I also asked about the possibility of an online exhibit. This has caused me to consider the question of why museum’s must obtain physical objects and why high quality photographs that can viewed in virtual reality cannot be used? I do not believe that it is a far jump for the public to embrace virtual reality due to it’s increasingly low cost. The challenge of course is creating dialogue within someones living room.

A great example of a virtual museum can be found at:

http://americanart.si.edu/multimedia/wonder360/

Art Works: How Art and History Can Interact

Sarah Trafford a Temple University graphic design student created the above work. This piece of artwork tells a simple history about a well known and beloved figure in American history. At the bottom of this piece Trafford states that, “Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector.” But hidden within is a much more complex history. Some of the recognizable symbols include the White House, a paratrooper drop, and the “V” for victory. This piece of artwork works for many audiences. It captures the viewers attention invites them to learn more about Roosevelt and if his legacy about World War II and his presidency is not taught then the audience will at least learn about Roosevelt’s love of stamps. This juxtaposition of innocent stamp collecting and the violence of war reminds me of Fred Wilson’s, Mining the Museum. In his exhibit he juxtaposed many objects that are not normally found together such as a Ku Klux Klan hood with a baby carriage. Another series of artwork near Trafford’s piece creates a similar and eerie possibility for juxtaposition. The piece that was neighboring showed fictional objects that Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin shared together. Some examples include a locket, love letters, and a condom with the words, “I’m Huge,” written on it. Roosevelt and his treasured status seems to rest above Trump but it must not be forgotten that even when Roosevelt was leading the nation he had his fair share of controversy. Maybe Trump will be remembered in a similar light as Roosevelt one day…