Blog Post 7

“Here is a 410-page hardbound book written by J.H. Van Evrie titled, ‘White Supremacy and Negro Subordination’. It was published in 1860 and its context explains how slavery of the South was a normal condition for slaves. Evrie, the author, uses anthropology and anatomy to back up his claims that slaves were dependent on their masters. This is followed by a series of photos enforcing stereotypes of Caucasians, Asians, and Native Americans. Of course, now we know that the science used in this book is all biased and does not shed an ounce of truth.”

When writing a label for a piece in a museum you have many different aspects to think of and demographics to please. Because of this I often seem that the writers of these feel as if they are stretched too thin, in the sense that because they try to appeal to everyone, they end up barely appealing to all viewers instead of really capturing some. And you cannot blame them as terrible as it sounds running a museum is a business whether or not what is inside is historical or modern. When writing a label, for something like a slavery related artifact, there is so much history one could go into on any individual piece, however if they really compiled all of the relevant info then people would see a huge lump of paragraphs and most likely want to the next exhibit, so they have to pick and choose what they find is needed. Because of this there is already so much variation because one person can do a good job picking valid info and one person can do a terrible job. But then there is also what they have to think about when writing these labels. You want to appeal to the kids in the museum because it is very important they learn certain things yet there are some things that just aren’t appropriate for children so you either have to write something not necessarily appropriate or write something that is geared more towards older crowds. Then still when writing towards older crowds you have to appeal to the person who is only going to quickly glance and read a few words and then you also have to appeal to the person who is looking for a full synopsis of what happened. Because of this often times labels don’t include as much information as they can and often this results in the exhibit not really doing justice to the event in history because of all these reasons that they can’t include everything.

One thought on “Blog Post 7

  1. I really enjoyed reading your exhibit label and your additional reflections about this process and the challenges of presenting history to public audiences. Your label is informative of the book (as a historical object) and what it includes. There is a science behind writing labels, and it has to do with the size of the exhibit space, the number of objects in the room, and the average amount of time the people spend reading and viewing the objects. People also don’t spend the entire time reading labels, which means that labels must be pretty brief. At the same time (and as you pointed out), there is a challenge of choosing what information to include. The general rule in mass communication and public history, is that writing should be suitable for 3rd grade audiences. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and insights on this subject!

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