Since the power outage in Taos put me out of the Zoom meetup for the history of museums, I could not participate in any of the discussions of what constitutes a definition for museums. I watched the videos and audios previously on the controversy of revising the definition at the triennial world museums conference. I would agree more with some who did not think that massively worded redefinition to be all things to all people was a cure for the original as more adequate compared to the massive adjectival tome. I had seen a parallel path taken when the International Astronomical Union tried to redefine what a planet is and the division that resulted when they dealt with poor old Pluto. It did finally result in Pluto being demoted to a minor body because of the mounting evidence of same size objects being discovered outside the Kuiper belt with similar properties that have been discovered later with the New Horizons spacecraft which was the first to image Pluto in a close flyby. Pluto lost the vote because it was disqualified as a planet for only having two of the three criteria.
New evidence of the ethnic political biases inherent in some prior museums has indeed changed the operational and structures of how today’s museums have changed that outlook and presentation for exhibits. However, reading the never-ending wording of the proposed redefinition compared to the concise older one painted such a faux rainbow of splitting the color spectrum by defining every color in 10 angstrom wavelength segments than simply saying that color was red compared to fuscia. And should we exclude Infrared and ultraviolet because we cannot see them and maybe indigo which some folks can’t distinguish from violet? Would saying they all are part of the lager electromagnetic spectrum make blind people content? Have you ever looked at the DMV registration for your vehicle? Two of mine are a car which looks to be blue-ish or turquoise to me and others but is is listed as green according to the VIN, and a Honda that came from the factory as Celestial Galaxy Silver but is tagged as gray on my registration. So when I go to the auto repair shops and tell them it’s the silver Honda they have no problem finding it even though DMV says it’s gray.
I’ll be plugging in my museum experiences for this class based on being the director of the small museum at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks for Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad (FTVRR) for six years. You will probably get tired of my ramblings as an old dinosaur who probably should be put in one of Druckenmiiler’s fossil drawers. But hey, I am the senior in this class so you must pay attention to your elders or at least pay lip service to listening.
The history of FTVRR is very brief and consists of two arms, operations and museum formed in 1992. My involvement in the museum started when the founding father of FTVRR moved to Anchorage and the secretary died in 2012. At the beginning of being on the board of directors in 2009, I noticed it was primarily an old white guy’s organization of gearheads and young geeks both of which had train sets growing up who could now play with a real live steam engine that was built in 1889 to serve the gold fields in Fairbanks. Injected into this mix was the history of the founding of Pioneer Park in 1967 to celebrate the purchase of Alaska from Russia. There were five museums in the park, the Pioneers of Alaska which has a collection of early setters in Fairbank mainly mining, Aviation Museum, Kitty Hensley and Judge James Wickersham houses, Native Museum, and the most recent the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, along with the Fairbanks Arts Gallery. Except for the Native Museum, these all were established to show interior Alaska non-indigenous peopling of Fairbanks from the early 1900’s to 1960’s.
To further demonstrate the focus on what is now considered white incursion into the area for development of resources, the Native Museum was built out of concrete blocks to resemble a Tlingit long house while being surrounded by mockups of a kashim and Eskimo and Athabascan semi-subterranean dwellings. A schism arose between the park and later formation of the native organizations resulting from ANCSA & Native Land Claims Settlement Act that were the reason for the Trans Alaska Pipeline being built. The local native corporations of Tanana Chiefs Conference & DOYON effectively boycotted staffing the replica Native Village and Museum leaving the Park to staff it with non-native docents. The final nail in this disparity was dealt when the Morris Thompson cutlural Center was built in town to be more inclusive. Just a few years ago the Native Museum was leased to the Folk School for teaching youth how to build items the traditional “old fashioned” way like boats, furniture, ironworks, carriages, still from the 1900’s era tools and techniques. Albeit they have made canoes and I think a dog sled and snow shoes, these are not usually constructed like native crafts in the traditional sense.
So to belabor the point (and get in extra credit for over 800 words), the focus of Pioneer Park museums would be judged under the new rubric of the museum definitions proposed as a non-inclusive whitey work focused only on a narrow time of colonialism in Alaska after the Russians took their furs and sold off the rest of their failed enterprise to pay off war debts. I just don’t have the patience to reread the purported redefinition for museums in the world to see if I can fit the Pioneer Park five into it, primarily because I get lost in the comma-verse of all those wannabe all inclusive words that must matter to five billion earthlings quasi collectively. If I saw it with all the elements bulleted with numbers and sub headers, I could circle the ones that apply to the Park like one of our weekly quiz questions lumped into one document for a final test.
I pose the question to our classmates as to where you would fit museums like those at Pioneer Park into the fold for the new definition?
PS, I’m not certain if you will be able to see the two attachments from FTVRR because they only appear as links on my draft and won’t know until I look at the posts in the discussion forum for this module after publishing.