Ferguson and related events are sparking broad protests over the treatment of African Americans by the police and the courts. Should museums and historic sites be involved? Should they be collecting, preserving, or interpreting these present-day events? Should they provide a place for protest or response? Or are these beyond their roles and responsibilities? There are no easy answers because every site and every community is different, but ultimately, people engage with historic places because there’s a personal connection–historic sites are collecting, preserving, or interpreting topics that are relevant and meaningful to the visitor.
Identifying what is relevant and meaningful isn’t always easy but contemporary events offer a glimpse. People discuss, explore, study, question, react to, and protest about issues that matter to them, and the more people that are involved around the same issue, the more significant it is.
Museums and historic sites inhabit a special “third space” in society that allows us to do things that can’t happen at home or work. They allow diverse people to discuss, explore, study, question, react to, and protest about issues in a safe place. As Presence of the Past has shown, we are Continue reading