Like all good museologists, I have a small cabinet of curiosities where I collect things of wonder, inspiration, and imagination. Mine is virtual and sits in Evernote. It’s time for a year-end clean-up, so here are a few that didn’t develop into full blog posts but even in their unrefined state, seem sufficiently interesting to share:
Google is continually looking for ways to get information to us as quickly and easily as possible. The last couple years it’s been creating quick descriptions of places using five keywords–but I’m not sure how they’re derived. A recent search for “historical society near Maryland” in Google Maps associated the American Historical Association with “symbol” and the Historical Society of Washington DC with “celebrities.” Who doesn’t like attention like that? The most surprising, though, is the description of the DAR National Headquarters with “period rooms • two galleries • genealogical research • calvin coolidge • mindless behavior”. They’re getting top reviews, however, so whatever they’re doing, it’s working! What five keywords would you use to describe your historic site?
The second item may initially seem amusing but turns out to be grim–at least to me. The September issue of Washingtonian, a regional magazine for DC Metro area, carried a full-page ad for Colonial Williamsburg’s “Cry Witch” program just in time for Halloween. The headline reads, “After dinner nothing tops off the evening like convicting an innocent woman of witchcraft.” Lots of things came to mind, starting with the veracity of witch trials in 18th century Virginia. Secondly, this seems to be saying that sending an innocent person to prison and perhaps execution is good clean fun. We might be able to dismiss it as a silly advertising ploy, but would we have felt the same if they promoted a tailgate party at the next slave auction? When I shared this with my museum studies students (most of whom were women), they didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Perhaps I’m really sensitive because I just finished reading Devil in the Grove, the Pulitzer-prize winning story of four young African American men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman in Florida during the 1940s. If you want to check out “Cry Witch” yourself, it’ll be presented again in March (just in time for Women’s History Month) and be warned–they say it’s not appropriate for young children.
That will conclude the posts for this year. I’ll be taking the next couple weeks off and intentionally won’t be posting (unless something amazing happens). Sorry for the unintentional quiet at the beginning of this month. Several projects and the end of the semester distracted me, but I hope to maintain my pace of a couple posts weekly in the new year.