Museum Exhibit Analysis.
Introduction: In his book A different mirror: a history of multicultural America, Professor Ronald Takaki challenges the Master Narrative of American History, the “powerful and popular but inaccurate story” declaring that “our country was settled by European immigrants, and Americans are white.” In his work, Professor Takaki highlighted the hopes and struggles of immigrant men and women working and living in America, dispelling the many negative stereotypes marginalized as the “Other.”
Objective: The goal of this assignment is to identify how the official history is represented in repositories of human civilization, spaces that are also known as museums. Pay particular attention to the spatial management of the exhibit, the order in which the artifacts are displayed, and how they present the participation of certain groups of individuals in the official history. Your paper should be typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman size 12.
For this assignment, please read the following pieces. These articles will provide you with the necessary context to execute this particular assignment. Both articles are posted on the course website.
Golding, Viv. Learning at the museum frontiers: identity, race, and power, Introduction. Trofanenko, Brenda. “Displayed objects, Indigenous identities, and public pedagogy.”
Anthropology and Education, Vol 37, No. 4, 2006, pp. 309-327.
Instructions for Writing the Essay: As you begin to write your paper, please reflect on what you observed in the exhibit and compose a 4-6-page paper that summarizes, critiques and applies the exhibit to the overarching theme of the course, the Master Narrative of American History. Does the exhibit challenge this notion, or does it affirm it? Further, please address the following questions in your essay.
- Primary theme and subthemes of the exhibit: What information is the exhibit attempting to convey? What kind of story is being presented?
- How was the use of space representative of the exhibit?
- What is so particular about the order of the artifacts being displayed?
- How are historically disadvantaged groups represented in the exhibit?
- How are identities, i. e., ethnicity, gender, sexuality addressed in the exhibit?
- How is the exhibit presenting these different intersections, if at all?
- Multimedia tools: are there any videos/films, digitalized diagrams, maps, computer
kiosks incorporated into the exhibit?
- If you had the opportunity to talk to the curator of the exhibit, what questions would
you ask him/her?
Make sure to visit the museum’s webpage or call ahead of time to confirm hours of operation and possible cover fees.
Please choose a museum for your analysis from the following list.
Autry National Center
Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County – Becoming Los Angeles Museum of Latin American Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
Mexican Cultural Institute
Los Angeles Country Museum of Art
California African American Museum
Japanese American National Museum
San Bernardino County Museum
Santa Barbara Museum of National History
San Diego Museum of Man
Museo de las Californias Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT)
Centro Histórico y Cultural Calafia (Rosarito)
Riverside Municipal Museum
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
Sherman Indian Museum
Chinese American Museum
Heritage Square Museum
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Southwest Museum of American Indian