Recent social and economic trends, increased marketability of local heritage, and a national dialogue on identity have spurred the proliferation of historical exhibits across the United States. While much research has been conducted on the subject, most scholarship has focused on larger, professionalized museums. In this article, we discuss the different kinds of historical exhibitions, including those presented by individuals and organizations. In this way, we can better understand how the medium of history emerges from different settings, epistemologies, and goals.
Historical exhibits play a vital role in the transmission of historical knowledge. They are often visited by families and community groups, and sometimes are memorials for tragedies and injustices. As such, there is a definite interpretive element to these exhibits. Choosing particular items for display implies judgments regarding cause and effect. These interpretations may be controversial. This can promote debate on the content of the exhibit. Attempts to suppress such material are counterproductive to rational discussion.
The selection and placement of historical exhibits are critical to the transmission of historical knowledge. They are usually visited by family groups and reflect on the tragic events that have occurred in history. The selection process of museum exhibits involves a judgment about cause and effect, and these judgments may be controversial. However, this is beneficial for the dissemination of historical knowledge, as it encourages healthy discussion on its content. In the end, attempts to suppress such material will only lead to polarized discourse and a negative perception of the history of the past.
While many museums do not permit controversial content, there is still room for debate over their selection of historical exhibits. These controversial exhibitions may provoke a passionate debate about the content. There is no one right answer to this dilemma. As long as people respect the history of other cultures, the museum exhibits are a valuable way to learn more about the past. In fact, many people have learned a great deal about the past through these exhibits.
While some museums are considered controversial, the policies of these organizations are generally not. The National Council on Public History and the American Historical Association’s Executive Council have each issued policies prohibiting this type of material. This is the most important issue for the museum, and it is not a good time to suppress the content of an exhibit. In the past, museums were notorious for suppressing dissenting opinions. The censorship of historical works was a major cause for a societal backlash.
In addition to ensuring that their content is accurate, the museum exhibits are crucial in transmitting historical knowledge. Often, they are visited by family groups, and are sometimes the only witnesses to tragic events. Moreover, they contain an interpretative element, implying judgments about cause and effect. Such interpretations can be controversial, but they may also encourage rational discussions about the content. Aims at suppression of these exhibitions would only be counterproductive.