The Place of Theater Re-Creations in Museums


NMAH Greensboro lunchcounter experience.

NMAH Greensboro lunchcounter experience.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I would like to call your attention to an article by Susan Evans, “Personal Beliefs and National Stories: Theater in Museums as a Tool for Exploring Historical Memory.” Just published paper in April 2013 issue of Curator: The Museum Journal. This is the written form of a presentation given in December 2011 at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark, as part of the Danish Network for Memory Studies conference. The full article is located here.

This article documents the work and creative thought that went into a program offered at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History entitled, “The Time Trial of John Brown.” The article abstract states in part: “Using the Time Trial approach as a case study, this article reveals that interactive theater in museums can provide a platform from which audiences assert their own historical understanding while learning firsthand about their role in creating a shared knowledge of American history. As the role of museums evolves in the twenty-first century, new attention must be paid to this personal process of examining and creating history and memory through performance. It is through performance and participation that history and memory are both examined and created by the audience.”

This type of programming is really a powerful educational methodology. I’d very much like to see this duplicated in other places, especially at the National Air and Space Museum where I work. These programs are definitely leading the field and deserve replication elsewhere.

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