76. 400 Years Post-Mayflower, the Provincetown Museum Rethinks Its Historical Branding


Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm UNLV museum. Archipelago is your audio guide through the rocky landscape of museums each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started. Sometimes a historical event is all about the branding and the brand of Plymouth. Rock as the spot. Where William Bradford and the mayflower pilgrims first disembarked is pretty strong in the American tradition. That I grew up learning the rock symbolized the pilgrims arrival in what is now the United States and at the beginning of their interactions with native nations. Who Live Nearby Plymouth? Rock is an easy visualization tool shorthand. Something that sticks in your mind. But the mayflower. Didn't I land on Plymouth rock or even anywhere near? What is now Plymouth Massachusetts? Its first five weeks on this continent which included the signing of the mayflower compact happened in the bay on the other side of Cape Cod near city now called province town. I grew up in province town. And when you grow up in province town and it's all you know it's all you ever know so I grew up knowing that the pilgrims landed here and we were always taught the importance of the mayflower compact and to go out in the world and realize that not everyone was taught that is just fascinating. They spent five and a half weeks here exploring our shores There are a lot of significant moments before they realized that the train was just to rocky not as protected from the weather. So they got back on the boat and headed to Plymouth for whatever reason in history books and when kids are taught it really picks up at that point in blimp. It's fairly easy to compress five weeks particularly if they happened. Four Hundred Years Ago. The quest here is not just accuracy. It's not about saying well. Actually it's to be aware all participating in historical branding and that monuments and museums are perhaps the best brand ambassadors. Hello My name is Courtney hearst and I'm president of the Board at the pilgrim monument and province town museum. It is interesting even recently. Unfortunately there were some graffiti on Plymouth rock just last week you every news feed was running it especially here locally and it was saying. Plymouth landing place of so we were calling to correct people. Say That's actually not true. The province town museum sits under the Pilgrim Monument. A Slim Granite Tower that dominates the skyline of province town. The monument was completed in nineteen ten to draw attention to the fact that the mayflower landed. Here I good branding as a school kid. Her said that the top of the tower was a great place to escape with friends and since the museum was free she would hang out there. Whenever her school was between sports seasons but during those childhood visits she was unaware of another type of dehumanizing. Branding happening in the exhibits. The whole hang used to be lined with these huge murals almost life size as a kid. They felt life-size. Now that I'm talking I'd say they're not but they're big and each one depicted a different moment in the pilgrim's arrival and the impact on that nation. So it's their first interaction and the native people all look exactly alike. There's no definition in their faces. Their hair is exactly alike. They all look really aggressive. Really angry. And that they're on the attack the pilgrims all have very distinct features. They're wearing different clothes there expressions. They look almost fearful on their cowering. They definitely look like they're being attacked so you can even start to go layers deeper and deeper and deeper in the end the inaccuracies. But when you just look at it the stereotype that it was portraying on a subconscious level the portrayal of WOMP and dog people like this isn't unique but it serves the narrative of the Pilgrim's virtue and nobility in the face of a hostile world now the only way they persecuted in Europe. The narrative goes but they will also persecuted in the new world which creates a justification for anything that happens afterwards. All of this buttressed by implied neutrality of the Museum. They were so inaccurate. That we're actually GONNA leave one of them up in this new exhibit as A. Can you point out what's wrong? In part of the interactive of the exhibit will be show. What's wrong the new exhibit which is called story is a partnership between the province town museum and members of the dog nation. So our story. It were working with In conjunction with the tribe polyp eaters and Stephen Peters specifically have been the real brains behind it and the execution of it we have learned in the last few years through working so closely with the tribe that a lot of the story was wrong and then it wasn't told accurately so we have worked with them to create a whole entire new exhibit. We've got at the room and rebuilding it and it's called our story and what's interesting about it is. It will be told from their perspective as far as how they were living here Before the pilgrim showed up on the example of a story from those first five weeks that has been told exclusively from a colonial lens is a soy of Cornhill the spot near province town where pilgrims found stores of corn preserved by the WOMP dog it was always positioned as they simply found the corn. And that's how history tells it i. It was actually stolen corn. It was clear the way that it was stored the way that it was capped that it had been put there by people. There's no way that you could have been. They even say that in their log so it was clear people are living here. They just hadn't come across them yet. The our store gallery opens later this year. To commemorate the four hundred year anniversary of the pilgrims arrival under the initiative. Province town four hundred the initiative is planning for a much different commemoration than the three Hundredth Anniversary. Back in nineteen twenty back. Then it was called celebration not a commemoration and included and parades. It's not a celebration for everyone and that it is somewhat more solemn in that yes you know the pilgrims came here and they did some good things and they were brave for coming here and seeking that's part of the story but it's not all to be celebrated so we've been training ourselves for the last two years even that small nuance of a word. But it's not a nuance when you see how important it is so everything from that word. Choice will shift To things like we're not having a parade you know that that was an initial brainstorm idea. You think like centennial. Let's do a parade and things like that. We're not going to do that because that would be seen as disrespectful and we understand that so. The collaboration has been so tight throughout that. I think it's going to feel a lot different in all of those ways. I hope but the province town museum is also in the middle of another. Maybe even bigger branding change connecting the pilgrim story of four hundred years ago to the modern history of province town with the past one hundred years province town has attracted artists playwrights and the LGBT plus community today province town is perhaps the best known gay resort on the US is east coast. Hurst wants to expand who we think of as province towns pilgrims. The word pilgrim has been intentionally used to describe the passengers of the mayflower because of passage in William Bradford struggle therefore it connecting his journey to the Christian Bible. That's good branding for hearst. Sees it as through line to province towns more recent history as well or hoping to reframe the word pilgrim and stuff for it to symbolize a group of people and really what they're seeking which is to be accepted for who they are? Whatever that the whether it's religious freedom or any freedom at all. I'm seeking a place where they can be themselves. I think there's a sense that this board and this team are committed to telling more accurate story of province town in the mayflower pilgrims were the first pilgrims to arrive here. Four hundred years ago and they came seeking acceptance and tolerance and freedom and then pilgrims of all sorts of come to province town shores. Since them they were the first but so many the fishermen the artist. Lgbtq community So many so. We're really hoping that we can t take each of those stories. Each of those pilgrims stories and Tele cohesive history of province town growing up here. The AIDS epidemic was so close to us and again you just grow up thinking that's what most people saw and life into that my mom would like crews dinners by Guys House that were struggling and had no on how many of them came here to in some cases. Diane how this town these Portuguese women in the community just took them in and loved them and really took care of them. That's a story. That's you know it's province down story but it's it's AIDS story and it's a national story and that's a case that likely might be in the new updated version in the Museum. So when we say that we wanna tell them more accurate. It's even just a more comprehensive story because it does have a thread in the nation's history as well on example of a future exhibit might be about the spirit this pizza riot of nineteen ninety which are says was province towns analog to the important stonewall riots in New York City when the bars would get out at night and typically the gay bars would get out and not just gay bars but gay people would come into the street and they would Ali pizza and it would be really hard to get through. We'll one night. There was a police officer was giving some giving them trouble on unnecessarily. Shouldn't have been and the group rioted so these moments that were happening here in our cosmo but shifted the town and the town shifted legislature on. What used to be called gay bashing Importing more laws in place and and protecting them even further and it was this moment that for us changed. Perception culture and Robinson historical brands are powerful in the same way that a single monument can shift towns legislation for the better of photogenic. Rock can diminish five weeks of history in the minds of millions of students and the word choice that the museum uses can turn a Bushel of stolen corn into just an innocent lucky. Find as the four hundred year anniversary of the mayflower arrival approaches. The province town museum is preparing for the commemoration by changing things up. They don't use the word branding. But like the pilgrims themselves they're expanding the word pilgrim to include recent province town history. The working to tell the story of members of the WOMP inauguration directly instead of through the Lens of the colonists and they want people to know that the mayflower landed here first before moving on to Plymouth. We obviously want to shine a spotlight on the fact that the pilgrims actually landed here and the time that they spent here but beyond that were hoping to cast a spotlight on province town as a place that is welcoming to pilgrims and that message for us in today's time feels just as powerful this.

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