Museum Label: “These small silver identification anklets were used to mark slaves with a history of escaping. The phenomenon of slaves running away, seeking to gain freedom, is as old as the institution of slavery itself, and those caught would endure extreme and cruel punishment, as well as this anklet as a representation of that slaves reputation, furthering the individuals torment. This anklet contains a lock, key, and identification tag, which is blank.”
Reflection: I chose this because I found it crazy how misunderstood this artifact is, knowing how many people turn it into a fashion statement nowadays. Taking a deeper look into how this anklet is portrayed in museums, I realized that because of the simplicity of the item, the symbolism of how much pain this anklet meant to slaves weren’t exaggerated to the extent that it should. So many slaves strategized their escape because they were determined to have a free life, this anklet is a representation of those who not only failed to escape but also went through another level of traumatic events reigned on them from their oppressors. It’s crazy to me how many people wear anklets and might not even know what this style originated from, and in my opinion, I believe if museums and other places with sources of information on slavery actually made it more popular to the public eye, then people wouldn’t misunderstand it as much as they do. It wasn’t hard for me to find this object and attach to it the way I did, because I like fashion, so I immediately realized something was wrong when I saw it, because I recognize how many people actually where them of all genders. Many objects in history has been perceived differently overtime, but in respect for those who have went through so much during times of slavery, I think it’s important to notice what items should and shouldn’t be stylized. Collars, as well as certain type of facial masks are another example of objects that are stylized that came straight from slave masters who used them on slaves as a form of controlling them. You will find that the labels for objects like these appear very vague in museums, so it’s imperative that these museums make giving the type of recognition these objects deserve, one of their highest priorities.
One thought on “Blog Post #7 – Mason Martin”
What an interesting find! I really enjoyed reading about the label that you created and your profound reflections about this piece and museums more generally. Your label is very informative, but also incorporates the significance of the object–something that so many museum labels lack. I agree that it is striking to see objects like this (either digitally or in-person) and consider the dehumanization that such objects were designed to create. This anklet appears innocuous, as you suggest, but there is a traumatic backstory that needs to be acknowledged. Museums are ideal spaces for learning about such objects, and additional context would be helpful to visitors who probably enter with basic historical knowledge.