Welcome to the October issue of Limbs and Things from Tegan!*
The "Me" Section
I’m pleased to announce the book The State of Museums: Voices from the Field is out now from MuseumsEtc. It is made up of twelve chapters looking at different angles of museum practice today, from museum professionals around New England.
Philosopher Karl Popper discussed whether all ideas should be welcome and equal in society, outlining what’s known as the paradox of tolerance. In 1945 he released an anti-totalitarian book called The Open Society and Its Enemies. The paradox, from a footnote in this work, states that if a society tolerates all ideas, people are free to use their society’s freedoms to further bigotry and systemic injustice. Popper claimed, “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.” Thus, the way to maintain a tolerant society is to be tolerant of all ideas except intolerance. While museums are not societies, if they want to be forums for ideas and for our communities, museums should embrace all ideas except intolerant ones, while looking carefully at what that means in a museum setting.
That’s an excerpt from the introduction to “Museums and the Paradox of Tolerance,” the chapter I authored. The rest of the chapter is less philosophical and focuses on how museums can embrace the paradox of tolerance, as well as the limitations of applying it to museums.
In honor of Halloween, a cute comic by c. reineman.
[Image description: Comic of 12 panels. A person is sleeping in a bed, and off-screen, a voice says, “Pssst” “Hey” “Wake up” It’s a ghost. “Hey” “This is my first haunting so I’m just going to go ahead okay” The person is awake. The ghost says, “Okay” and then “Woooooooo” over several panels, while rattling chains, appearing in a computer or TV monitor, ripping pages from a book, and waving their arms at the person. After a moment, the person holds up a scorecard reading 9.]
In Greater Boston
Also in the spooky spirit, the Post-Meridian Radio Players are presenting “The Van Helsing Chronicles,” a double feature of original adaptations of Richard Marsh's The Beetle and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Post-Meridian Radio Players (or PMRP) is a theater group that does radio drama style scripts in front of a live audience, with live practical sound effects. The Van Helsing Chronicles runs the last two weekends in October, in Davis Square.
I was going to make this month’s Civics Corner about getting your flu shot, but we’ve had a wave of new and renewed voter suppression efforts in the lead-up to the November 6 election. Here are some organizations you can get involved with to help combat voter suppression and get out the vote:
- Four Directions focuses on defending voting rights for Native Americans, voter empowerment, voter protection, and voter engagement.
- There are several groups that help connect people to offer rides to the polls. Carpool Vote is national, and there are also several initiatives based around a particular state or region. Or, spread the word to your family and friends that you’re willing and able to offer rides to the polls!
- The Voting Rights Institute offers resources for voters, as well as resources on voting rights litigation.
- Let America Vote is focused on voting rights.
- VoteRiders helps people navigate changing voter ID laws, and helps people overcome financial and bureaucratic barriers to getting voter ID.
- Spread the Vote works to get people government-issued IDs that meet current voter ID laws, and educates the public about how hard it can be for some people to get ID.
For History Lovers
I only recently learned of the group War Through Other Stuff. They are focused on telling the stories of war from non-military perspectives. Part of their mission is, “We want to better understand how war is experienced by those who are off the battlefield, by those whose voices have been lost, or whose experiences have been overwritten.” I was sad to miss their first Twitter conference, but the presentations are all archived on their website, so I have good reading ahead of me.
For Museum and Public History People
I think a lot (but maybe still not enough) about the ways that museums design experiences for visitors, and whether we’re working with what feels right to the museum, or to the visitor. Sometimes it’s useful to get visitors to confront something that feels counterintuitive to them, but sometimes we’re just working at cross-purposes. This article on people ignoring sidewalks and creating their own paths reminded me of the challenges of creating museum experiences that work for people.
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Until next time,
*(Happy almost-Halloween, with apologies to the medical training device company I took the name from. Your regularly scheduled "Links and Things from Tegan" will return next month.)