What is the name of your exhibition?
Museums have the potential to teach us about how we understand both ourselves and the culture to which we belong. How we narrate the story of our society through the objects we produce and hold up as meaningful teaches us deeper lessons in what we value and how we relate to each other in the world.
Because we live in a racialized society, the objects our society has produced are also racialized, and as such, can clue us into how race is currently ordering our social relations. As Stuart Hall taught us, culture functions as the mechanism through which we create shared racial meanings in our society, for better or for worse.
In this course, we’ve discussed several examples of museums, exhibits, and displays that have something to teach us about race. On the one hand, we’ve explored how museums and exhibits have been used to forward racist projects, like in the case of the anthropological “human zoos” popular at the turn of the century and in our reading about the experience of Saartjie Baartman’s display as a “missing link.” On the other hand, we’ve also explored how museums and exhibits have been used as racial projects to illuminate the racist histories of various historical orders of race. For example, Dr, David Pilgrim’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia: Using Objects of Intolerance for Teaching Tolerance draws on objects produced during the Jim Crow era to criticize Jim Crow racism, not endorse it.
Now that we are nearing the end of the quarter, this final project will ask you to be the curator of your own gallery show. Reflecting on the racial order in which we currently live in today, imagine that you are the curator of a small museum or gallery attempting to select objects that tell the story of race in contemporary America. This wording is intentionally broad so that you can be as creative or expansive with interpreting the prompt as you wish.
Specifically, your project will need to include the following components:
Choose a theme for your show. What is the name of your exhibition? Why did you choose it? Write 1 paragraph explaining the overarching point your show is trying to make and what viewpoint or provocations you hope the audience will leave with after seeing it
Choose 3 cultural objects that illustrate something interesting or significant about race and/or racism in America today. Use your imagination! Objects can really be anything–memes, photographs, newspaper articles, everyday ephemera, tweets, TikToks, fashion trends, movies, etc. Include a photo/screenshot/link of each object you decide to choose. You can also choose more than three objects if you want to discuss several examples, but make sure that there are three distinct sub-themes you end up writing about and at least three objects to accompany those sub-themes.
Write a short paragraph for each object, describing (1) why you chose the object to illustrate your show’s theme and (2) what it can tell us about how race and racism are being socially constructed, practiced, or institutionalized. Make sure to draw on at least one concept or theory from the course per object to deepen your descriiption of each object and to tie its significance back into the course content.
You can have the final project be as fancy or simple as you want. “Simple” would entail just having a document with subheadings for “THEME,” “OBJECT 1 – PHOTO AND DESCRIPTION,” “OBJECT 2 – PHOTO AND DESCRIPTION,” and “OBJECT 3 – PHOTO AND DESCRIPTION” with all the associated text for each section. “Fancy” would entail having those sections and doing something more visually creative with them (e.g. collage what your show might look like, add a background, add other visual details, etc.). You won’t get docked any points for going simple with the final project, but we’ll add up to an extra point of additional credit for more creative projects as a bonus. So if you get a perfect score and also have an interesting creative element, you’d get a 20 + 1 = 21 total.