Week 7 Blog: Museum Label

Museum Label: Wooden drum created in the 19th century by an unknown artist. This 28 pound drum was crafted from materials including wood, leather, hide, and metal. Enslaved individuals would commonly create musical instruments like this drum from scrap materials that were not being put to any other use. Artifacts like this were the only objects enslaved individuals could use for entertainment, and they would commonly use them to demonstrate their culture through music.

One of the main reasons that I decided to use this drum as my artifact for this project is because I understand it’s importance and significance. Before taking this course, I already had some experience learning about enslaved individuals and how they used handmade musical instruments. This topic was very inspiring to me because these handmade instruments gave enslaved peoples the ability to represent and cherish their culture. With these instruments, they were able to play songs and melodies that demonstrate who they are and what they stand for. Another interesting and somewhat saddening concept regarding this artifact is that handmade musical instruments were commonly the only objects that enslaved individuals were able to have as forms of entertainment. Slave owners would strictly monitor enslaved peoples to make sure they didn’t have any objects that they weren’t supposed to have, and musical instruments were practically the only objects they were allowed to possess. 

One of the main challenges of presenting history for the public is that you have to be cautious about how the public will perceive your message. While it is important to include specific details regarding events in history, it is also important to realize that some details might now be what people want to hear. The history of our country and even our world is very commonly sugar coated in an attempt to spare people’s feelings and thoughts of remorse, which I think is extremely unfortunate. There were numerous horrific events that occurred throughout our history, and these are the most important events to learn about in my eyes. I say this because learning about those events and understanding how and why they happened will help mankind prevent history from repeating itself.


One thought on “Week 7 Blog: Museum Label

  1. What a great find! I really enjoyed reading about the label you created, your personal expertise about this subject area, and your reflections about the presentation of historical objects to the public. I agree that this drum must have incredibly special and cherished by the enslaved people who played it. Music is such an amazing cultural gift and expression– especially in the history of slavery where there are so many different cultures coming together as well as efforts made by enslavers to suppress the freedom that musical expression could bring. As for the presentation of public history, I agree that museums face many challenges when presenting historical material culture. They often leave interpretation to the viewers, but this is problematic because it can normalize decontextualization. Museums are spaces for learning, and we should all be more critically engaged in the presentation of objects and how to do so responsibly.

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