Diversity: have we gone far enough?

Lonnie G. Bunch III states in Call the Lost Dream Back; Essays on History, Race and Museums “the core function of a history museum is to help people remember, to remember not just what they want to celebrate, but also what they need to know” (pg 50).  The question is what do people need to know?  What should people remember or learn about?  If the history museum is a place where communities come to remember, can it omit parts of the past?

I argue that nothing should be omitted; museum should show both success and failure.  Don’t we learn from failure?  If we do not learn from past failures, will we not make the same mistakes again?  You might be asking yourself at this time what does this blog post have to do about diversity in museums.  Bunch argues that history museums have not told the entire historical narrative.  He feels they tend to neglect minority history.  I agree with Bunch when he says, “we learn even more about a country by what it chooses to forget,  this desire to omit- to forget disappointments, moments of evil, and great missteps- is both natural and instructive” (pg 62).  When it comes to race, museums have a community obligation to discuss the subject.   It shouldn’t be relegated to a side room or a traveling exhibit but integrated into the main presentation of history.  History of America is intertwined the history of race.  It does not matter race, gender, social economic class because everyone lived and worked in the same community.  I feel that museums are beginning to open up to diversity.  There are discussions and exhibits about slavery, the Civil Rights movement, Native American history, but museums have not gone far enough.  The integration of minority history has not yet occurred.  There is still a “them and us” mentality in exhibitions.  There are still side galleries discussing African American history, and women’s history.   There is still “disappointments, moments of evil, and great missteps” to join the collective memory of our communities.

What are we hiding today?  Does it go beyond race?   When was the last time a museum you visited discussed gay, lesbian, or disability rights history?  Diversity includes; race, social economics, religion, and sexual orientation.  I think these are the things that should join the historical discussion.  We can’t forget the mistakes, the failures, because out of the darkest moments of history has come triumph.

Texts Utilized in this post:

Lonnie G. Bunch Call the Lost Dream Back; Essays on History, Race and Museums. (Washington D.C.: The AAM Press. 2010)

Written By Julie B.

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