Week 2

James Boon’s “Why Museums Make me Sad,” elaborates on some discussion held in class last week about the exhibition of objects in museums, and how they are portrayed the public. This reminded me of something I saw a few days ago. While doing my daily browsing on my social media, a fellow acquaintance (and huge social activist) posted this article with some very opinionated comments.

To summarize, Boglarka Balough, a Hungarian journalist, released an article called “I Morphed Myself Into Tribal Women To Raise Awareness Of Their Secluded Cultures,” in which she photoshops herself to represent different styles and standards of beauty for women in African tribes. There were lots of problems with this project, as what Balough did was a form of blackface and cultural misappropriation. However, her intentions were just to share with the world a culture that she found to be fascinating.

We walk a fine line when exhibiting objects in museums. It is the museum’s purpose to preserve history and to educate and share with the public. However, some of these objects are not always acquired through righteous methods, like pillaging. By exhibiting things in a museum, curators “glamorize” these objects, when its origins are ethically questionable. With the application of modern technology, this is something curators must consider even more heavily. Balough physically did not dress or perform blackface- she did so through photoshop, by meshing her face onto the faces of other existing women. Though not to this extent, what we call “fun” museum sites, like the Wig making website, can easily go wrong and offend many people if not done properly.

A lot things are open to interpretation, and thus creates a large spectrum of reaction from the viewers. Though we cannot always “please everyone,” it is crucial to be considerate of all audiences and be mindful of the sensitivity that exists when displaying objects, no matter what they are.

3 thoughts on “Week 2”

  1. That article is such a great example of what we want to avoid! But I think you’re right: we feel it’s important to empathize with and understand other cultures, and yet sometimes, ironically, our narcissism is on its fullest display when we attempt to do that. Perhaps that’s part of what Boon’s getting at.

  2. Good point about the pillaging- national museums are chock full of art that was confiscated during wars, etc, never to be returned. One example that comes immediately to mind is the British Museum, where the Rosetta Stone is housed (it was found in Rosetta Egypt originally). I just looked up “stolen art,” and the first thing that came up was this article entitled ‘9 Priceless Artifacts Museums Should Return to Their Home Countries.’ http://mic.com/articles/76321/9-priceless-artifacts-museums-should-return-to-their-home-countries#.ybSxJO38n

    So many museums in the US and Europe are home to artifacts that don’t belong there. What’s worse is that the countries of origin beg for the artifacts to be returned and the museum officials.

  3. Yeah I completely agree. While we can never please everyone, it is important that we avoid exhibiting in ways that are culturally “loaded” and may distract from the object itself.

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