Blog Post #7

Museum Label

Havelock(s) are a modern hallmark of the American Civil War period. The cloth/cotton cap was designed to fit right over a soldier’s cap, and had a flap-like tail that came down and covered the soldier’s neck. The instrumentation of the Havelock was to keep soldiers cooler and would prevent sunstroke on very scorching days. The covering was developed and made popular by Sir Henry Havelock of the British army in 1861. The popularity quickly lost traction because its intended purpose did the opposite. The Havelock didn’t keep soldiers cooler in fact they actually made them feel hotter. 

As a society we have to acknowledge the history of imperialism and colonialism that exist in many museums. Museums are at a crossroad because to some(purists and professionals) they believe that museums’ intimidate visitors who were not raised in the museum culture and feel unwelcome in the galleries. Others believe that museums are sacrificing the ambiance of the establishment, by taking away the purity of the materials, workmanship, and beauty of the objects on display. That art museums are trying to bend to popular culture and the market. In conclusion the museums end up taking a neutral role in politics.

 Museums must take accountability of the marginalized communities they choose to curate. These artifacts or historical figures at one point belonged to native countries.  If you know the history of these places, you know they’re a product  of colonialism. If the cultural traditions of these objects or people are not represented/documented  in the right way, museums are faulting the audience, and the future-comers to the museum. These objects must either be returned to their native countries, or the Smithsonian/curators must embrace and address the stories of these artifacts, so the public gets a more adequate understanding of the complexity of its history.  

To present history to the public, museums must take a bigger role in addressing what societal issues are at the time. They(museums) are civil spaces where people go in hopes to unravel the truth. Making sense of the messy and the complicated past, art historians must make labels easier to read and provide context and detail. The problem that arises is whether or not it is possible to tell effective detailed stories, and share complexity? Museums began as a space for visitors to engage in their curiosity for history. Now museums must find a way to tell good story telling and provide historical detail. 

One thought on “Blog Post #7

  1. I really enjoyed reading and learning about the Havelock– it looks like it would be extremely warm to wear too! I also really appreciated your discussion about museums as colonial institutions. Whether it is in regards to Indigenous objects or objects related to the history of slavery, there is often a lack of context around these items as well as an absence of adequate representation/partnership with these communities. Some museums are trying to change this, but it certainly requires a larger cultural movement to reconsider the “ownership” of objects that aren’t theirs. Proper cultural protocols and collaboration to either return the objects OR properly preserve/display them are some examples of ways that museums could better approach their collections.

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