The Museum as a Racist Institute Racism, particularly against those of African descent, Is a very dark past for the Western world, one that still prevalently haunts and Invades the future. As racism Is a part of societies’ history, cultural Institutions that present said history, such as museums, deal with the Idea of racism every day In the exhibits within their walls.
Many efforts are made to show how terrible the racism of the past was and Is, but the line between the racism of the past and the racism of the present is often too fine to produce correct racial minority celebration. Instead, what starts as a museum’s effort to celebrate ethnic minorities and be inclusive, results in the continuation and resurgence of the bigotry they were attempting to prevent. The museum’s racism comes in the form of White dominant actions and thoughts, producing the marketing and selling of how the museum perceives black culture.
Racism within the institution occurs when the museum practices ignorance by presenting only their interpretation of the minority they are trying to represent. The lack of Black artists in museums Is a starting point for examining how the museum Is a racist Institution. In 2007 It was found In New York Museums that 82 to 100 percent of exoskeletons featured only White artists (Cooks 201 1 The lack of African American art In museums sends the message that It Is not worthy of being shown in a museum.
This is proved by the reactions to the 1969 Harlem on my Mind exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, an exhibit that had good intentions of representing Harem’s Harlem but instead failed and represented the curator Thomas Hiving, a White male’s interpretation of Harlem. Despite Harlem having a rich visual art scene, Hiving decided to exclude artwork by Harem’s artists ND instead only include photographs and video (Cook 2007). This decision was made against the Harlem communities’ wishes and made the Harlem on my Mind exhibit a sociological show, researched by non-Harlem residents.
The lack of representation of Black art In museums Is reflected through the fact that African Americans are half as likely as White people to visit a museum because they have the perception of the museum as a racist Institution (Fall 1993), If there were more African Americans involved in the creation of Harlem on my Mind they would have recognized how this would be offensive, like the Harlem Cultural Council did, and iced it. The museum is a predominantly White institution, so without consultation from the minority they are representing it presents racism in history the way a White person would: with ignorance.
The Henry Willet pottery collection at the Brighton Museum and Art Galley attempts to trace the history of England with its objects, including many items that represent minority groups of Britain (Shiner 1999). There is no attempt made by the Brighton Museum to try and explain the negative connotations of the figures of racism, causing the racist Images to be still active. This jack of explanation regarding racism was further exemplified at the Royal Ontario Museum’s 1989 Intro the Heart of Africa exhibit, where It was expected that African culture would be celebrated.
Instead viewers found themselves surrounded by the way of life in quotations like “barbarous custom” (Butler & Shelton 2007). There was no information to suggest how wrong and racist the colonists were, simply that the racism happened and it continued to be felt as it was put on display. A study by the Exhibits Design Division concluded that the ROOM did not have enough knowledge about the interests of the black community ((Butler & Shelton 1999). This lack of knowledge is the outcome of not having enough Black staff working on the exhibit or enough people of African decent who were consulted.
Instead of the museum showing the negative effects of racism, it simply puts it on display, prolonging racist ideas within the public consciousness. Racism, while generally condemned in today’s society, is a part of its past that unfortunately still occurs today. It is the museum’s Job to instruct and educate the public, but proper education is prevented when minority groups being represented are not appropriately consulted. This results in White people and the museum Just racketing and selling how they perceive Black culture, and loses the whole point of teaching and breaking racial boundaries.
Although attitudes towards minorities have dramatically improved over the past few decades, there is still a long way to go. At this point it seems as if there is any racial equality progress coming from these cultural diverse exhibitions like the museums intended, it is not from the institution itself but from societies angry response to the institution. Works Cited A. R. Shiner (1999): Selling Racism: History, Heritage, Gender and the (Re)production f Prejudice, Patterns of Prejudice, 33:4, 67-86 Butler, S. R. , & Shelton, A. (2007).
Contested representations: Revisiting into the heart of Africa. Broadside Press. Cooks, B. R. (2007). Black Artists and Activism: Harlem on My Mind (1969). American Studies 48(1), 5-39. Mid-American Studies Association. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Project MUSE database. Fall, J. H. (1993). Leisure decisions influencing African-American use of museums. Landscape and Urban Planning, 15, 107-117. Sullivan, R. (2004). Evaluating the ethics and consciences of museums. Reinventing the museum: Historical and contemporary perspectives on he paradigm shift, 257-268.
Annotated Bibliography of Prejudice, Patterns of Prejudice, 33:4, 67-86 This article explores historical racism and it’s prevalence today in museums and art galleries, particularly in The Henry Willet Collection and The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. As well, through case studies involving the Hottentots Venus and the Golliwog, Shiner explains how cultural racism is making it difficult to move beyond relates making money to selling racist objects, and how institutions may think it is okay to continue selling something that is openly racist Just because it is very popular o buy.
This is expanded and relates further to my paper as the institution is selling racist heritage by both promoting and refuting intolerance. This results in the packaging of ethnic minority groups, which is constantly the problem when displaying historical items produced in and by racist culture. The most helpful part of this article was the fact that is discusses the cultural irony our society is filled with, and how using it can superficially defend anything to be playful. Butler, S. R. , & Shelton, A. (2007). Contested representations: Revisiting into the heart of Africa. Broadside Press.
This book revisits the Royal Ontario Museum’s 1989 exhibition Into the Heart of Africa which was curates by Jeanne Cannibal and ended up being thought of as highly racist against Africans, and offensive to the African Canadians who experienced it. One of the most offensive qualities was that the exhibition was displayed from the soldiers’ and missionaries’ viewpoint, rather than from a cultural African stand. Therefore, in an ironic fashion terms such as “barbarous custom” were put in quotations throughout the exhibit, but many did not see the irony as much as the intolerance the words represented.
I think this article is helpful to me as it not only points out what went wrong with the exhibition, but also what the Room’s next steps should be to address historical and contemporary racism, and relate this to the other case studies I am looking at. I also think this book is very good because it does not seem bias and openly attack Jeanne Cannibal, but instead looks a bit at where she was coming from as well to better understand how museum racism comes about. BROWN,’N DRAINING special to The Globe and Mail. (1990, Mar 24). Black groups protest African show at ‘racist Ontario museum’. The Globe and Mail (1936-Current).
Retrieved from http://search. Protest. Com/deceive/1144113547? Accounted=11233 This Globe and Mail article reports on the protests that were happening outside the Royal Ontario Museum during the Into the Heart of Africa exhibition. It describes the irony in the exhibition that white visitors may see but the black visitors do not, and how the show gave an overly colonial impression instead of celebrating African culture. It also reports on how it took a long time, four months, for the black community to mobile protest against the exhibition, and how the Room’s response as that they have no plans to change the show.
However, many other museums cancelled exhibiting it. This article is helpful because it contains factual information on why people were protesting Into the Heart of Africa at the time of its exhibiting. As well, the article includes a photograph that was included in the exhibit; a white women missionary with African women washing clothes, implying to me, and I think many who saw the exhibit while running, that African women didn’t know how to wash clothes before White people showed them how. Studies 48(1), 5-39. Mid-American Studies Association.
Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Project MUSE database. Another case study, Harlem on my mind, was an exhibit that opened in 1969 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that sought to explore the cultural history of Harlem, NYC, which was predominately black. With seemingly good intentions to celebrate Harem’s culture and its progress as a community, the exhibition failed and proved racist because of a multitude of problems and issues the Met did not address, such as not including any paintings or prints by black Harlem artists.
This is a great article for my paper because it really examines how important it is for the museum to reach out to the culture that their exhibit is about, to help curate for accuracy and proper celebration. As well this collaboration between the culture minority and the institutive will greatly help, if not eliminate, the racist overtones an exhibit should be trying to overcome. Also useful is the information this article provides on what caused social change and a spring of representation of minorities at museums, stating it was not the Meet’s “Harlem on my Mind” but instead the people’s reaction to it.
Cooks, B. R. (2011). Exhibiting blackness: African Americans and the American art museum. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. In this book, Bridget Cooks analyzes the most significant exhibitions of African American art, discussing the issues involved with exhibiting cultural differences. Although the whole book is very useful, I did not look at all of it, only particularly the conclusion drawn which included a survey conducted by Pineal.
This found that 82 to 100 percent of the exhibitions in major art museums in New York featured White artists exclusion. I find this information very helpful when determining why African Americans find museums racist because it is hard facts which prove a point. This kook is also written by the same author as Black artists and activism: Harlem on my mind which is helpful because the two overlap, especially when talking about that exhibition. Fall, J. H. (1993). Leisure decisions influencing African-American use of museums.
Landscape and Urban Planning, 15, 107-117. This article is comprised of two research studies: the first comparing 50 African American visitors and 50 white visitors to science-museums, the second a multi- factorial analysis of African-American leisure behavior. The first study indicated that African American museum visitors and white museum visitors are both well educated tit a higher education than the population as a whole. The second study found out that African Americans are half as likely to visit museums as white people.
Although the first study is not particularly useful to me, the second study is very interesting as it comes with evidence, much of which was subjective, that the past as well as present perception of museums is that they are racist institutions. I also find it very helpful that for most surveyed, there was a desire to learn more about their African American culture, but that interest is not reflecting in African American attendance at live, is because white people, who don’t fully understand how to rightfully represent African American culture for black people, make these institutional things.
Sullivan, R. (2004). Evaluating the ethics and consciences of museums. Reinventing the museum: Historical and contemporary perspectives on the paradigm shift, 257-268. In this essay Robert Sullivan argues that museums are moral educators and must speak with confidence on ethical issues such as race and that museums are generally racist and sexist institutions. He presents how in 1976 the developing New York State Museum organized a sex equity committee to examine exhibit themes, linguistics and design.
The committee found that certain groups, women and minority groups, are underrepresented in exhibits and other instructional materials. This essay is very helpful as it illustrates the effect that underrepresented of groups in museums has on the public which visits it, and I found this helpful to further point out how museums are racist. However, even though this essay is about racial and ethic representation in institutions it is more about gender and sexism, which I am not focusing on in my paper.