Object Link: https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2011.4.2ab
Object Label: Ambrotytpe of Qualls Tibbs holding a musket across his body sitting in a wooden chair. Qualls Tibbas was a 5th Sargent in the 27th US Colored Troops. In a larger scare, Qualls represents the courageous colored troops who fought with the union for their freedom after years of lobbying for their right to fight. By the end of the war, the USCT made up 1/10th of the Union forces but died at a rate 35% higher than white soldiers.
Reflection: Slavery and the related topic manner in museums can be tough to represent. I think this is because of two reasons. First, objects in museums have such deep meanings that labels (like the one that I wrote above), don’t nearly do the object the justice it deserves. The second reason is because of the sensitive nature of the topics and the reluctance of society to learn from the past, even when it is tough to do so.
Reason one: To be fair, I think the label created by the museums is not solely the museum’s fault, but the consumer of that information. As a society, our attention span and for the most part, our ambition to be independent and search for information on our own, is so small that museums have to make these labels so short so people will actually read them. Overall, if I presented a label that is 80 words and a label that is 400 words that represent the same object, I am almost certain a vast majority will read the 80-word label, even though the 400-word label will give you a much deeper understanding. My hypothesis is that these museums hope to make the label interesting enough so that we take out our phones and do some digging and research for ourselves. Unfortunately, in today’s society, people don’t have the drive to do that. Overall, I blame the consumer of information, not the museum.
Reason Two: Learning about the history of slavery can be tough for most people. Most of the time, it is just in human nature to only explore and learn about things that make us happy or things that are of a positive nature. I think this can be a scary thing. As a society, we have to grow and learn from our past, we, however, cannot hide from it and pretend it does not exist. I think the best place to do this is in a museum. Overall I think it is the visitor of the museum’s job to understand what they are getting into. In my opinion, as long as the museum makes the visitor aware of the section they are exploring most things should be available to be viewed.
One thought on “Blog, week 7”
I really enjoyed reading about your label and the additional reflection about this assignment. Your object label gives the who, what, where, and when, but more importantly, you offers some additional context to understand why this photo might be significant. I agree that museums are not wholly at fault for the lack of context– it takes time, money, and energy that the museum does not always have. The visitors do have a responsibility to not only look at an object, but also read about it. Secondly, I agree with your analysis of museums as appropriate spaces for education. Like a classroom, it is an opportunity for people to learn, discuss, and reflect about the importance of the museum’s items. I think we take the education of museums for granted sometimes.