Museum Science Mgmt

Weekend Update: TEDxUniversityofTulsa

 what’s your truth?

 

When challenged with this question, my mind begins to flip through scenarios, or maybe dichotomies would be a better word.  What is truth and what is not? Is it even that simple?

The annual TEDxUniversityofTulsa event took place on Friday and this year’s theme was Truth And Dare. Each speaker challenged the notion of “truth” and dared the audience to evaluate their own definitions of the word. Museum Science and Management student, Zachary Qualls challenged museums to ask the honest questions about our history. An important topic when looking at the recent trend to hide unpleasant strains in America’s past. Qualls gave a stirring personal narrative about his trip to North Carolina, where he visited important historical Cherokee sites with a Cherokee colleague. Qualls was dared to examine history from another group’s perspective, a dare that altered his perspective on museums and their role as gatekeepers of information.

Qualls finished by daring the audience to…”Let museums be an instrument for empathy. How have museums been instrumental in your life?

We will post the video as soon as it comes online! Thank you for challenging the audience to seek the truth, Zachary!

 

MSM Student, Zachary Qualls
MSM Student, Zachary Qualls
MSM Students: Danielle Culp, Zachary Qualls, Molly Noah
MSM Students: Danielle Culp, Zachary Qualls, Molly Noah

Exhibition Review- Wimmin Troubles: Humorous Images of Women from American Magazines, 1900-1920

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How does society, at large, deal with anxiety? Humor. This is the argument proposed by the Oklahoma Center for Humanities’ recent exhibit “Wimmin Troubles: Humorous Images of Women from American Magazines, 1900-1920,” The exhibition was the subject of the OCH’s Final Friday gallery talk on February 26. Curated by TU Ph.D. candidates Hannah Covington and Annie Page and using the material from The Modernist Journals Project, the exhibit focuses on how early 20th-century magazines negotiated women’s changing power through humor.

Drawn from a moment when women entered the workforce in huge numbers, the exhibit captures the public’s acute anxiety over the changing social norms for women. The highlight piece was a cartoon series depicting the biblical characters, Adam, and Eve. The cartoon draws Eve as a giant, cloddish woman with a club, with Adam daintily perched on her shoulder like a parrot. The cartoon was meant to play on conventional low humor and critique the ways women and men’s bodies interact. However, Covington and Paige explain how often these cartoons reproduce the narrative the cartoon is trying to critique. Eve serves as a reminder that the women’s suffrage movement was a threat to the masculinity of men, furthering the public’s anxiety about women’s changing role.

The exhibit relents the ways male cartoon artists were involved in negotiating and interrogating women’s power using their art form. In one cartoon, a woman is rallying a crowd against a female candidate, citing her conventional female looks as a reason for her incompetence. The male artists were negotiating women’s power by projecting them as incapable of supporting each other. Casting the suffragettes as immature women who are unable to engage with real political issues.

The curators end the gallery talk by bringing a significant point to light, masculinity was being renegotiated during this period as well. The exhibit shows a significant anxiety over masculinity in the early 20th-century. While women’s roles were changing to reflect the growing suffrage movement and the increasing rights in the workplace, masculinity was being interrogated in opposition to femininity. One of the cartoons depicts a story about a wife, husband, and a hen. Here the husband is depicted as “hen-pecked”, too weak to stand up to his wife. The wife has overpowered him in the domestic and public sphere and now he must join the suffragettes. The exhibit does an excellent job of showing how early 20th-century magazine publications were interrogating these questions of gender through cartoons. Using humor as a way of deflecting the growing anxiety about the reordering of masculinity and femininity in the United States.

Exhibition Review: State of Deception: The Power of Propaganda in Nazi Germany

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For the past two weeks, I have been gripped by Man In The High Castle, Amazon Prime’s new TV show. The show asks the viewers a troubling question: what if the Axis powers had won WWII? The show reimagines the 1960’s in San Fransisco under the Pacific States, ruled by Imperial Japan while Manhattan to Colorado is ruled by the Third Reich. Many of the characters work for the SS, so the viewer gets in an intimate look at the inner workings of the Nazi regime, especially its communication technology. The show explores the concept of “reality”, a concept that has an interesting relationship to Nazism and its use of propaganda. After all, the most striking aspect of the rise of Hitler was the way in which he reshaped the German population’s idea of reality. In the show, everyone is after these “films” which show the Allies winning the war. The Reich wants to collect and destroy the video, fearing that the American resistance movement will use the videos as propaganda to recruit. After finishing the first season, I decided to take a trip to the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art to look at their traveling exhibit, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.

The exhibit examines how the Nazi’s developed and exploited mass communication to gain power in Germany. The exhibit takes viewers through four time periods 1918-1933, 1933-1939, 1939-1945, 1945- present, highlighting the Nazi’s message, audience, and technology during each time period. The exhibit illuminates the technological and sociological innovations that allowed the Nazis to reach mass audiences. The exhibit provides excellent context into how Nazi’s developed their ideology in the post-WWI environment, showing how they used propaganda to consolidate power and turn their radical ideas into policies.

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What the exhibit does well:

The State of Deception offers a lot of information without wearing down the visitor.

The exhibit is long and packed with information, quotes, videos, and photographs but the specificity and organization keep the visitor from experiencing fatigue.

Curators encourage a broad audience with accessible readability:

All of the text is accessible to a wide range of audiences. The text panels are clear and simple, with few adverbs and simple sentence structure. The graphics are mostly posters and advertisements from the Reich which are translated into English. The curators allow the graphics space to speak for themselves, offering the bare amount of information.

What the exhibit could change:

Too many open questions:

The State of Deception poses a final question: how does propaganda play a role in your life? Ending an exhibit with such an open question could have some benefits and potential educational programming opportunities but the exhibit does not offer much context for how propaganda has continued and evolved into the 21st century. Connecting how Nazi propaganda subtly reshaped Germany’s reality to the 21st-century mass communication complex could have brought the message home. The exhibit never really answer the question of how propaganda differs from media/advertising. With one of its opening quotes being: “Can words and images inspire people to commit acts of genocide?” The exhibit never brings this question into the 21st century. While this issue may seem out of the scope of the mission of the exhibit, it might provide grounds for a part 2 or continuation.

The State of Deception’s most glorious achievement is the way the exhibit works to expand the public’s knowledge of the Reich beyond the horrors of the concentration camps. By showing how the propaganda worked to wear down and convince millions of people to follow Hitler, the exhibit does what few others have been able to do- show how ordinary people can be culpable to extraordinary evil. This deconstruction of reality by nazi propaganda plays out intimately in Man In the High Castle, bringing the question of propaganda and fear mongering into a modern context. The show exposes how ordinary people can combat propaganda using the truth.

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An Afternoon with Tall Grass Prairie

Tucked away in northern Oklahoma,  2,500 bisons roam the last vestiges of the great Tall Grass Prairie. A stunning ecosystem that once extended from Texas to Canada. A couple of MSM students had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with the staff, learning about the history and direction of the preserve. While it might be tempting to only see Tall Grass Prairie as a just a way to relive the past, the preserve is relevant for Oklahoma’s future!

The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve was started in 1989 by The Nature Conservancy, with the help of the Oklahoma community. Since 1989, TNC has restored vast patches of the prairie that had been damaged by oil spills, overgrazing, and non-native species. Restoration processes include the TGP’s patch-burn technique, where approximately 1/3 of the prairie is burned every  year in order to promote new growth. Today the preserve boast over 760 species of plants with robust populations of bison, prairie chickens, and moths.

The Tall Grass Prairie is looking ahead; planning for visitors from all over the world. Looking to the future requires understanding how the past has shaped our current culture. Native American tribes, oil, and bison reflect cultural values of Oklahoma. Tall Grass Prairie will be exploring how has the landscape of Oklahoma shaped its values and how can Tall Grass be a part of reflecting and transmitting these values back to the community?