Blog #7




Museum Label: This document is a payment receipt regarding the information of a purchase of an enslaved African American. This transaction was made on January 28th, 1813 in Essex County, Virginia. Rosa Gray was the initial slaveholder, she sold Cook the enslaved man to Edward Rouzee Jr. Cook was purchased for nine pounds, eleven shillings, and seven pence.  When converted to US currency today it is approximately equivalent to $588.28. 

Reflection: I chose this object to create a label for because the idea of slavery is quite a mind blowing concept to me, especially after all of the information that I have learned this semester. In this class I feel that I have widened my understanding of how certain things need to be presented in society particularly when it comes to such an important part of history, during times like in the early 1800s when slavery was still very prominent in the US. When it comes to museums I think it has been a built in concept that has become widely accepted to have labels that do not justify the true significance of objects in history. For example, in my label and any other museum label it neglects to stress the fact that this raged piece paper literally was a certificate signing a human’s life away to another human. Without any regard to the enslaved man or his life, but the blame should not only be put on museums for not correcting this sooner. It is also on us as a society for not being more sensitive to these kinds of things. It more so comes down to the fact that the words we use to represent history is how it will be perceived and remembered. I think another reason for the lack of representation in labels and other things has to do with the fact that across the US in education we as citizens learn about history in different ways. In a class discussion as a class we found that many of us had a different learning experience when slavery was taught to us in elementary and high school. In my experience I had an extensive amount of knowledge taught to me, but in some of my classmates’ experiences they did not know how truly gruesome and cruel slavery was in the US. And this is people who are around my age, which is 18. I cannot imagine how lackadaisical the learning experience was for older generations. The generations who are old enough to be working in these museums that lack the descriptions that truly justify these important objects in history. I did find it a challenge to write this label because I did not have enough words to truly make the reader understand the importance of the object and how it was apart of the ugly history of slavery.  

One thought on “Blog #7

  1. I really enjoyed reading about the label that you created and your additional reflections about the representation of historical objects in museum settings. To me, seeing receipts or other elements of material culture humanizes slavery in a way that transforms or historical understanding. It was real, and the human subjects were real too. I agree that museums are more invested in putting the objects on display rather than trying to guide your thinking about them– partly because they lack adequate funding and resources to address these problems, but also because they leave interpretation up to the audience. As a result, we are left with a bunch of objects that lack context or a way to truly understand them. I also really appreciated your discussion about representation and historical/cultural sensitivity. I think there is so much good that can come from community partnership and I wish museums did more public outreach in this sense. Some museums are ahead of others, and I’m glad to see that there is a lot of positive change out there. All the more reason to support museums!

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