Steven Dubin’s “Displays of Power” delves into the ways museums affect the public’s view of sub and major cultures within their communities. As an anthropologist, the concepts were riveting, because museums have long been a bastion of cultural superiority. Reading about public backlash against museums whose exhibits question the greater culture (as with the “Enola Gay” exhibit attempt) or museums that attempt to display the “other” culture without consulting that culture( like “Harlem on My Mind”) gets to the very root of ethnocentric Western ideologies.
I interviewed Amy McKune, Director of Museum Collections at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, about her experiences and viewpoints on museums presenting controversial exhibits. While she has not been part of any exhibitions that have resulted in public backlash, she believes it is part of a museum’s role to present compelling exhibits, which sometimes become controversial. One of her points I found particularly compelling involves the way in which exhibits about Native culture are displayed. As Amy pointed out, some of the largest government museums still keep displays that are outdated and do not always reflect current thinking about standards of collections care.
I found her point particularly compelling in regards to public reaction. Museums have made a shift if trying to change outdated exhibits regarding Native cultures. But it seems odd to me that more outrage on the community’s is not directed at these outdated exhibits. It makes me wonder: is this due largely in part to how we are educated, or rather not educated, about Native cultures as a larger society?