Racist Imagery from Coon Chicken Inn

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reaction from a visitor

We've received a thoughtful review of our exhibit from a member of the public-- do you agree with her assessment of the exhibit? Have you come to see it yet?

I found  the exhibit "Race. Rage and Redemption"-"Hateful Things" to be  interesting, yet bothersome most in terms of curatorial possibilities and responsibility. The exhibit has the potential to draw constructive dialogue, however there is missing curatorial description regarding the source of the collectible items and the "mission" of the collection.  Certainly having a collection with the racist memorabilia in it is potentially valuable for dialogue, the public would profit from explanation at front door of exhibit- describing what forces spawned the collection- who collected it- and the mission statement of the exhibit including Mark Twain description to the left.  Many of us have not heard of Ferris State University and do not know where it is located or the specific history of this collection.  Was the purpose of the collector to collect racially based propaganda items for entertainment or was there a purpose in his/her collection???   I suspect so, however a description of the intent of the collector needs to be stated.  You might also profit from having informed "docent" tour of the exhibit to underline purpose of the exhibit.  Otherwise the collectibles immediately yield a visceral recollection of the Jim Crowe days without hosting constructive dialogue. 

Jim Crow remains in our society in some ways.  There are curatorial narratives missing in terms of the origin of collection,  purpose of collection, and purpose the exhibit.  When people enter the exhibit I  also advise the staff not to say "enjoy the exhibit."  There is a little irony in that phrase.  Perhaps saying..."" hope you find the exhibit to be worthwhile". .. or "I hope that you find the exhibit to be thought provoking."  What do staff members  say to people entering the Holocaust Museum???  There are odd sensitivities that  pop up left and right to detract from constructive efforts.... Again you need better curatorial narrative re mission of exhibit and perhaps docent presentation regarding the exhibit and its purpose.... You are inviting  incendiary responses from the lack of curatorial explanation..  I know what your purpose is... but many viewers will not...

Good luck.  I will try to attend some of the other events related to "Race, Rage and Redemption."  We find ourselves at a very tender time in terms of race relations.... while progress has been made.... 
there remain to be many unhealed wounds that continue to have salt pored into them with the poor economy and subtle yet strong underlying remnants of Jim Crow.  

Martha Drummond

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