What makes an exhibition controversial? In his work Displays of Power, Steven C. Dubin explores this question by using a case study analysis to promote his thesis; anything and everything can turn out to be controversial. Highlighting some of the most talked about controversial exhibitions, such as the Enola Gay fiasco and the Sensation outcry, to demonstrate the struggle of how redefining American culture is a massive task in its self. Each case study shows a different way a organization could cause controversy and how the museum staff handled the onslaught of public criticism. Dubin believes that museums are at the front lines of culture wars and as such any dynamic change to the narrative of American culture is sure to receive backlash.
With an ever-diversifying audience, museums now have to not only appeal to but bring in a wide range of cultures and people if they hope to survive. They need to so all of this without offending or depicting an inaccurate view of the people involved. To play into the misconceptions of a culture that for most of history was of “lesser” importance only makes the matter worst. It is important for museums to grow and push the boundaries of cultural acceptance. However, these issues can invoke an unexpected emotional response from any given part of the public that could cause career-ending scenarios. Museum professionals must take this challenge in stride; if we do not push the envelope, no one gets the message.