Blog Post 7

Antislavery Medallion

Link to the object:

Museum Label (74 words) :
Medallion created by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, made in England, 1787, with refined stoneware surrounded by ceramic paste attached to a metal chain.  The design of an enslaved man kneeling, hands in chains, “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?” was a popular icon for the abolition movements against the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The anti-slavery medallion led to British Parliament’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

I did an image item on Omeka during Week 3 of this, so it’s almost like part 2.  First thought writing the label was, “How am I going to cram this information?”  I was able to get the creators, location, year and physical description within the first sentence.  Then I described the medallion and purpose in the second sentence, and an outcome, in the third sentence.  I was very shocked how quickly I got to 60 words!  It’s not enough, but now I understand how difficult this process is.  Also, I wasn’t sure how the label would flow.  In other words, I didn’t want it to sound choppy because it is packed with information.

As for my process, I went to Smithsonian website, clicked on American History category, and looked up “slavery”.  I jumped ahead to page 3 from the search results and found Antislavery Medallion at the bottom.  There was a ton of information based on this object which was great!  Although it makes it harder for me to gather the important information.  Thankfully, I was able to put the context of its production and the context for understanding its significance.  If I had more room, I would probably add more on the impact of the medallion to the abolition movements.

60 to 80 words seems shorter than what I have experienced.  I don’t go to museums all the time, but from what I remember there can be some large plaques.  At the same time, I don’t think they were for “simpler” objects.  For example, I went to The National WWI Museum in Kansas City (it was great by the way, I recommend).  I had to look back at my photos to make sure, but there were some descriptions that were way more than 60 words.  I counted, and a description of a large field gun had 168 words.  Is it because it is a national museum?  Larger objects mean more description?

2 thoughts on “Blog Post 7

  1. Hi Grace!
    I really enjoyed reading about this object you found! For last week’s blog, I created a narrative map and I followed the path to abolition in the United States. I found a digital image of this object and used it as my cover picture for my narrative map! It was really cool to learn more about the object itself, because I didn’t even know it was specifically a historical object! The quote on it, “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?” is extremely heartwrenching and eye-opening. The fact that enslaved people had to question their humanity among white people in this country will always shock me. Thank you for choosing this object, it was great to read about!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your object label and additional analysis! It captures the basic information about the medallion but also points to its significance and deeper context– the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Isn’t it crazy how quickly you get to 74 words? I think your label doesn’t read “choppy” as so many real museum labels do.

    I also liked reading about your personal experience in museums– there is a (strange) science behind the number of words on a label. It has to do with the size of the exhibit space, the amount of objects within that space, and the average amount of time that people might spend in that exhibit. If a person spends 10 minutes in a room with 10 objects, that’s 600 seconds to read 10 labels at 60 words each– IF you spent you entire time reading the labels, you would get through 10 minutes really quickly… With that in mind, actually, the room should have less objects for that reason. So based on your experience, maybe that particular room had less objects and thus more time for slightly longer labels? It’s definitely interesting to think about. Beverly Serell wrote a whole book about it!:

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