While trying to think of an out of the box controversy facing museums, I turned to one of my (morbidly) favorite topics – true crime. There are multiple true crime museums out there, and part of their exhibits include artifacts from infamous criminals, the more gore, the better. This is the controversy, as we’re talking about human lives being irrevocably changed at the hands of a criminal – whether that life was ended or simply altered in a traumatic way (such as a kidnapping). A really good example of this lies in the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. One of their most popular exhibits is the Volkswagen Beetle that Ted Bundy used to kidnap his victims. Obviously, serial killers are a big draw for tourists, and many, many of them have flocked to the museum just to see this car, maybe remembering hearing about the crimes as a young adult or child. That means that Bundy’s crimes are within living memory for an awful lot of people, and the victims’ families aren’t thrilled with the following that Bundy’s car is attracting. They’ve actually asked for the vehicle to be taken down from display, but I guess the museum maintains its right to display it. This, to me, is one of the biggest controversies – when a crime is within living memory, is it appropriate to display artifacts from the crime?? I don’t really have a good answer to this – I’m fascinated by true crime, as are a lot of others, but I don’t know that profiting off of the loss of others’ lives is exactly moral. And since Bundy’s reign of terror is also NOT within a lot of people’s memory, here’s a more recent crime: The Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013. Most of us are old enough to definitely remember that crime – is it too soon to display artifacts from that incident?

The unassuming tan Volkswagen Beetle that Ted Bundy used to kidnap his victims, most of whom were murdered.

So that’s the question for this post: Would you consider it distasteful or immoral to display an artifact from a crime? And if not, should there be a time limit on when an exhibit can be on display?

One Thought to “Museum Controversies”

  1. Hannah Terwilliger

    Oh! This question is so interesting and complex! Personally, I don’t like anything that deals with photos of dead bodies and how – if it was a crime scene – those people were murdered. Anything too graphical or even descriptive to how a murder led up and took place makes my inners turn. Anything along those lines is something I put a boundary on. Interesting post!

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