Each week, the undergraduate students in Museums and Public History will post their thoughts on creating the John Haley exhibit. Our first entry, and accompanying video, raises the important question of who decides what is worthy of exhibiting in a museum.
Ashley Green, Biochemistry 2015
I grew up in a small town in Maine immersed in historical societies. My childhood was filled with hikes through history, colonial reenactments, and the ever present push to never forget the value of preserving the past’s stories. Even when I escaped to New York City my days were wasted touching the first dinosaur bones ever found and giggling at what has been deemed the best of modern art. I have been unimpressed by the Mona Lisa and stood uncomfortably in front of Anne Frank’s diary. Even so, how could I ever help build a museum exhibit?
Though I consider myself an avid museum goer, I am most certainly not a history buff. I also have a hesitation when it comes to placing a value on what is preserved and presented as an accurate discourse. Who are these important people that decide what goes into a museum? How do they decide what is important? What is unimportant?
I probably have about average knowledge of the Civil War. I can rattle off some important names and tell you who won and what that meant. I knew nothing of John Haley. I also knew nothing of the daily doldrums of a soldier in the Civil War. Apparently, what I think are important details of a Maine soldier’s life are going to go into a museum. Mostly this consists of vivid descriptions of fantastic feasts and the hollows of starvation. What I want to preserve is the sentiments that would have concerned me and the lengths that people go to for what they believe in.