82. Statues and Museums
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm in Elsner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So, let's get started. The statute appeared in two thousand eleven on the path of my daily Commute to the University of Florida. Where I was a student, it was a statue of football player named Tim Tebow, and the strange thing about it was that Tim Tebow was still around. In fact, it was just a few months after he graduated, and it was commemorating events like touchdowns that I remembered seeing I remember seeing him around campus, and now I was looking at him houses statue, but it wasn't. Wasn't just a statue behind the statue was the entrance to a hall of honor which featured football trophies, but the space was not just a room with trophies. It was a story about the football program where trophies were an inevitable consequence. In short, it looked like a museum reader, rails and old pictures of the early days of the program were presented alongside pigskin football's from the nineteen thirties with lighting, but this wasn't just one university all across the football conference. These trophy rooms looked like museum spaces. At Florida State University just a few hours away. The trophy room begins with artifacts from and descriptions of the seminole nation. Even though these are tellingly light on the details, the point was to tie the athletic program success without a historical figures fighting a US invasion. It's all done very deftly one minute. You're looking at a map of what is now Florida? Drawn by US general and the next. You're looking at a tattered Football Jersey the next, a bronze statue of the stories heroes. There's a bridge between statues and museums. They feed into each other. So why do athletic programs adopt statues and museum like spaces because they want to sell us? A selective account presented as a neutral archive of the past. Last week Bristles at the center. Black Lives Matter UK protesters tore down the Statue of Edward Colston, a prominent seventeenth century slave trader. Protesters rolled the statue through the street and pushed it into Bristol. The same harbor that Colston's Royal African company ships that forcibly carried eighty thousand people from Africa to the Americas used to dock. Before it was thrown into the harbor, the Statue of Colston had been standing in the center of town since eighteen ninety-five, and it wasn't as if the source of Colston's wealth was just discovered last week. The idea of how do we make visible for instance, the enslaved people who are invisible at all of these sites of memory that were about white supremacy when they were created, and now they still are, but we don't talk about that rate like how do we make that visible something that I've been embiid playing around with for a long time? This is Dr Larry Montero professor of history at Rutgers University Newark and Co founder of the museum on site and creator of Washington's next. Interview Episode Seventy seven of the show. She explains and answers when the arguments against taking down white supremacist statues in the context of the United States the slippery slope argument and the people who make this argument tend not to be the ones who are like overtly Gung Ho in like you know, it's our. It's our southern heritage to honor Robert. E Lee sought those folks. It's more. The people who are historians sometimes are historians sometimes like folks. The argument that they make is that will. Yes, it's not good that there is a statue to Robert E. Lee, but the thing is we take him down and obviously using him to stand up for all the confederate statues. If we take him down, we'll then. Where are we going to stop? Because it? The reason why he's not appropriate for us to honor public spaces because of slavery will, there are other slave owners that we honor in public space, and of course, the biggest ones there are George Washington Thomas Jefferson. And of course is no way in hell. We're GONNA. Get rid of those statues, right? We're GONNA take down the. Washington monument I don't think so. You know so the idea is. It's a slippery slope that were starting to tumble down the minute that we start taking down the statues of people who supported and promoted slavery Montero's answer to the slippery slope. Argument is yes. Washington's next the tone of voice in which I I hear the slippery slope. From scholars and from museum practitioners. And from public parks officials is less one of like panic and concern about attacking that legacy and much more one of full. That's just silly. Obviously wouldn't do that. Dr Saudia Karachi, senior lecturer in modern history at the University of Birmingham writes in flux. Perry unpacked about toppling statues. Critics accused protesters of wanting to rewrite history yet fail to engage with what is really at stake, namely identifying acknowledging and removing endemic structural problems of racism in repair to form a suggestion. By more than a few people is museums wind up? The statues of problematic people in museums is the bottom of the harbour, really the right place for Statue of Colston. Of course, these questions tend to ignore that the bottom of the ocean is the final resting place for hundreds of actual. Thrown overboard from Colston's chips because they were deemed a poor investment for Colston's company on the Zeke Appel go. We've investigated what various Eastern European countries are doing with old statues of dictators like Lenin and Stalin. Monica, notice interviewed on episode. Five of this show describes how her family's native Lithuania removed. It's ubiquitous Soviet statues from city squares all across the country. The removals were events that helped build the young nation, but once the statues were removed from their original locations. No one knew quite what to do with them. Many of them ended up at something called Curtis Park a kind of half theme park that includes a massive statue garden. The statues are presented simply and somewhat randomly each has a little description of the city and square where the statue used to stand many Lithuanians and the Lithuanian government have criticized the uncritical approach to the parks laughed. Visitors are free to do whatever they want. I guess like once you got into the actual dash you. It's Kinda funny because you can do whatever you want. So like planning on top of London installing, picking their nose Tottenham on the head. Doing whatever you want but I like to think that I have some sort of connection. Some sort of understanding that spews images might have been both sterry inspirational different times. Somebody's life for me. They've always been images. That were bad like no like I. Feel like throwing I always do that. Lenin Stalin phase like these are the faces of terror that drove my grandparents out of. Yeah but. Interact with them on this like humorous level is really interesting. The situation at Bulgaria's Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia is somewhat similar. The outdoor sculpture garden is littered with statues. Commemorating Soviet power placed wherever there's room I visited many times, and I'm never quite sure how to react. There's a lot of power in deliberately taking these statues out of the context they were made for what once may have been in imposing statue, underscoring who's in charge in the public square is now just two key, leading impotently outer Rosebush in Eastern Europe the statues of. Of Lenin and Stalin and others were erected during the communist times and were swiftly removed when the system fell in the West statues erected more than one hundred years ago. Still stand without context Washington's next. Because the money he made from owning working in selling people isn't a footnote. It's the reason he was the first president. Even at the museums of Bristol Website Colston is identified as a revered philanthropist slash reviled slave trader in that order. As if the money he gave away to the city of Bristol wasn't violently extracted from the people he enslaved. It's not a sufficient answer to simply put these statues in the museum I. Don't know if there's enough museum space for all the confederate monuments in the American south or enough museum space for all the statues of King. Leopold in Belgium, but more importantly political exercise in selective remembrance neatly packaged as an unbiased archive. That statues represent is the same exercise that museums represent. Represent museums and statues are bridged together. Many of these statues are right in front of museum entrances, priming visitor for what they can expect to find inside statutes, museums share centuries long history of supporting white supremacist colonialist, racist ideologies, helping them flourish providing the evidence for them, and under girding them through their placement through their air of authority and through their supposed neutrality. The statues of American football players at American universities helps me think about this because the stakes are so low, the rivalry is so clear. Our football team has heroes and the long legacy, and it's telling that the two tools that were employed to make that point are statues and museums. This has been museum archipelago. Haven't checked out club archipelago. Now is a great time. My favorite episode of Our museum movie. Review Series archipelago at the movies is now completely free joining Rebecca. 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