June 16, 2011

Historic Integrity

Someone told me the other day about a living history museum she worked at before moving here.  The museum had an interpretive program and collection that remained the same for quite a long time.  Then the museum changed them.  I gather these were sweeping changes.  She said the staff was told the museum would only present to the public objects and information they could prove were accurate for that place for those that lived there during the historical time period.  

Textile pieces that did not meet the new criteria were taken off display.  These were pieces that had been part of the exhibits for a long time and that were missed by the public once they were removed.  Given the time period, I expect these textiles were made of handspun if original.

I'm sure that rigorous application of historical research is commendable.  At the same time, it makes me sad to think that textiles should have no place when they were once considered museum quality.  Sad that concern for conformity and authenticity should crowd out the long-established and the familiar.  That inherent value due to workmanship, age, or rarity should be eclipsed by the textile's contextual value, the fact that they don't belong because the rules have changed.

I suppose a museum can't exhibit everything but personally I would find interesting an exhibit that displayed misfit textile artifacts with explanations.

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