Intern Weekly Response: Trendswatch 2017

Posted on July 6th, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to choose one of three articles from the Center for the Future of Museums Trendswatch 2017!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

Supporting Migrants at a Small Scale Museum

By Exhibitions Intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

“Reshaping the World: Migration, Refugees, and Forced Displacement,” is an article out of Trendswatch, a publication of the Center for the Future of Museums, about how museums can more effectively support and include migrants. The piece stresses that migration is at an all-time global high since directly after WWII, and concurrently anti-immigrant sentiment is also reaching a zenith.

This is a letter out of the Jewish Museum’s collection which discusses the arrival of Judka Josek Fried in Baltimore from Russia in 1903. JMM 1988.209.004

This is a letter out of the Jewish Museum’s collection which discusses the arrival of Judka Josek Fried in Baltimore from Russia in 1903. JMM 1988.209.004

The Jewish Museum has a particular imperative to work to support the cause of migrant groups. In this social climate where anti-immigrant sentiment is high and people are convinced that the different traditions and ideas immigrants bring will erode the strength of the US, the Jewish Museum provides examples of an immigrant community which has both maintained its own culture and participation in and strengthened the existing community. The Jewish Museum aims to collect and share the stories of Jewish Maryland. The story of the Maryland Jewish population is one of migration, assimilation, and preservation of culture. The museum is based on the idea that these histories that are particularly Jewish should be saved and celebrated.

News coverage of the Jewish Museum’s Naturalization Ceremony. Image from ABC2 News.

News coverage of the Jewish Museum’s Naturalization Ceremony. Image from ABC2 News.

I had the opportunity to attend the Naturalization ceremony that the Jewish Museum held on national refugee day.  It was a great way for the museum to support and connect to the immigrant communities in the Baltimore area. Not only is the ceremony in clear support of immigrants it also introduces the individuals that participated to the Jewish museum as a resource. I wish that the article gave examples of what else smaller museums or museums with a very specific focus, like the Jewish Museum, can do to support migrant groups. The examples give in the article, which included designing exhibitions around global migration and providing direct programing and support services to migrants are not attainable with Jewish Museum’s infrastructure.


 

Not All Questions Have Answers

By Education Intern Erin Penn

the article’s cover page

the article’s cover page

While reading “Failing Toward Success: the ascendance of agile design,” there were a few points that truly resonated with me. First, the article states in the future a “report card may be sprinkled with Fs that laud little failures.” Today pressure engulfs students to maintain a perfect GPA: even a report card sprinkled with Cs is a failure. But if this article is right, grades and test scores will just be building blocks instead of death sentences. In addition, this article argues that minor mistakes can reap huge rewards. For instance even in a small risk there is still much to learn. Both these insights are important to me as a student and an intern.

Coming Soon: this article argues this failing report card will celebrate a  student’s hard work and not hold such a negative connotation.

Coming Soon: this article argues this failing report card will celebrate a
student’s hard work and not hold such a negative connotation.

On one hand, this article motivated me to push myself to make mistakes and try new things. However, I still wonder how perfectionism and failure will change in the museum world. First, with historic museums and exhibits about the past, shouldn’t several years of preparation be allowed? Can museums afford to lose an audience by taking risks that alter the fabric of the institution? Will these small changes really have a domino effect to elicit huge change in museums? This trend is an interesting and poignant shift and it’s ok that these questions do not have answers.


 

The JMM’s Push for Empathy

By Education Intern Sara Philippe

A Mile In My Shoes describes the growing lack of empathy in the United States and suggests that museums can and should have a role to play in making sure their work actively attempts to increase visitors’ empathy. I often notice evidence of the trend of the empathy deficit as groups of people become more segregated and closed off from people of different opinions, backgrounds, etc. While I think technology has the potential to foment rather than decrease empathy in its users, I also believe that social media often serves to further segregate people, creating “homogenous bubbles,” as the article describes. However, when technology is used in spaces like museum that are specifically motivated to create connection.

A suitcase full of clothes in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit that allows children to become the people they learn about in the exhibit through literally putting on different clothing.

A suitcase full of clothes in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit that allows children to become the people they learn about in the exhibit through literally putting on different clothing.

The article discusses the success many museums have in employing the human capacity to empathize. For example, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City found that empathy, more than anything else, was what allowed people to connect to the exhibits they viewed. In my time at the Jewish Museum thus far, empathy has also loomed large. Though it is not necessarily specifically mentioned, much of the work that goes into designing educational supplements to the exhibits revolves around finding the best ways for visitors to viscerally connect with what they view in the exhibits. One of the main focuses I have noted in creating a successful tour or educational resource is an appeal to empathy. What matters most is not that the visitor share a similar ethnic or religious background to those they are learning about in an exhibit, but rather that they are shown how such a background does not and should not have to pose any barrier to empathy and compassion. Both of the JMM’s exhibits currently on display do a good job of appealing to such sensibilities by making the voices and words of its protagonists central to the visitors’ experience.

A station in the Just Married! exhibit that encourages visitors to share their own wedding stories, thus demonstrating their personal connections to the characters showcased in the exhibit.

A station in the Just Married! exhibit that encourages visitors to share their own wedding stories, thus demonstrating their personal connections to the characters showcased in the exhibit.


How I gained empathy at the Holocaust Museum

By Exhibitions Intern Ryan Mercado

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

This week, we interns were asked to read articles from the Center for the Future of Museums Trendswatch 2017. I chose an article entitled “A Mile in my Shoes: Closing the Empathy deficit.” This article is about how more and more people are becoming less empathetic to other people and their experiences, and how museums are places where people can gain empathy for other groups. Such is the mission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, where we help people to understand Jewish life and understand where we come from. For me, this article really struck a personal note for me. As some of you know, I am not Jewish by birth, but a Jew by choice. I began my conversion to Reform Judaism last year and while I was going through the earlier parts of this process, one thought in particular came to my head many times: How does a non-Jew understand and gain empathy for certain aspects of Jewish life, such as the Holocaust. I had no family members involved in that terrible event so I can’t understand a personal connection like so many Jews do. In comes the Holocaust Museum in DC.

Part of a class back in College was a Saturday trip to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. It was my first visit to the famous Museum. By that time I had already decided I would become Jewish so this visit only seemed logical. I did not expect the powerful visit I had. Throughout my visit I learned about topics and events and people I never knew. I saw things that made me think. The most impactful moment of that day was when I walked into a room and before me was a clay model of Jews being marched into the gas chambers. My mind could not take any more of that and I went to the corner of the room and began whipping tears away. That simple clay model struck a chord with me. I could see expressions of sorrow, of fear, of death in those clay figurines. I finally began to understand the scope and pain that happened so long ago.

I won’t say that I now know what it feels to be personally affected by the Holocaust like many Jews do, but that visit struck a chord. It allowed me to get empathy for an event I normally would not have had. In this case, The Trendswatch article was right; Museums are a place to gain empathy, sometimes in the form of sorrow, sometimes in the form of appreciation, such as at places like the Museum of the American Indian. I still have much to learn about the Holocaust and much more empathy and understanding about that sensitive topic. Perhaps I’ll gain more empathy in a future trip to Yad Vashem.


 

Empathy & Museums

By Collections Intern Amy Swartz

A view of one of JMM’s exhibits that relates to the local community featuring a school group.

A view of one of JMM’s exhibits that relates to the local community featuring a school group.

This week I read an article named A Mile in My Shoes: Closing the Empathy Deficit which spoke about empathy or more, the lack thereof in America’s current culture and how museums can be a way to introduce or foster empathy. I found this article as a way to reexamine the purpose of museums. Often when one thinks about a museum they think about the art, the artifacts, the history. Yet one usually forgets that these exhibits that showcase these artifacts and art are creating a dialogue between the visitor and the context. This dialogue is important to help develop connections; whether they are between the past and present, different communities, or different ways of life.

A picture featured in the article A Mile in My Shoes: Closing the Empathy Deficit showing a museum exhibit that focuses on creating and encouraging empathy.

A picture featured in the article A Mile in My Shoes: Closing the Empathy Deficit showing a museum exhibit that focuses on creating and encouraging empathy.

Museums such as the Jewish Museum of Maryland help to bridge cultural gaps, helping viewers to relate to Jewish experiences even when they are not Jewish. However, I think one of the major challenges museums face in bridging the gap on empathy, particularly in regards to different social classes, races, religions, etc., is getting visitors from different backgrounds to visit. It is important to have collections and museums that showcase different minorities or groups that are often sidelined in larger museums. However, how much do these museums increase empathy or understanding when only people belonging to that sect visit? Or more specifically, how can the JMM build trust and empathy when only those of a Jewish background (and thus those who already having an appreciation or understanding of the Jewish culture and religion) visit? I think this is one of the many challenges museum today face when trying to create exhibits and spaces for understanding and cross-cultural experiences.


 

 The Role of Museums in Teaching Empathy

By Collections Intern Joelle Paull

The assertion that “museums’ inherent strengths position them to be effective ‘empathy engines’” is a compelling one. However, the article “A Mile in My Shoes: Closing the Empathy Deficit,” from the Center for the Future of Museum’s 2017 Trendswatch, never fully explains how these “empathy engines” run. The strength of the article is the amount of data on the increasing loss of empathy in society. It presents a persuasive argument for a change in education, the justice system, health care, and range of practices. Despite this research, the article fails to explain where museums fit into this picture.

Image via USHMM

Image via USHMM

The examples given are museums like the Empathy Museum and the Museum of Broken Relationships, which have opened in the recent years with the goal of encouraging visitors to look past differences and divisions. But can art museums and history museums teach empathy? What was perhaps more interesting than these examples was the statistic that found that students after one visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art “exhibited increased ‘historical empathy’ and high levels of tolerance.” This data supports the claim that museums can function as “empathy engines,” yet stops there. Still lacking is a discussion of museum curatorial and educational practices that foster the increasing ability to empathize among visitors. The question remains, what makes museums vehicles for change and key players in “closing the empathy deficit.”

School group walking in the shoes of Lombard Street residents.

School group walking in the shoes of Lombard Street residents.

Museums have the benefit of being at the cross section of many of the issues the article discusses. Art museums like Crystal Bridges have wide ranging collections, many objects dealing with identity, social justice, or even simply offering a historical perspective. History museums, which deal in narrative, similarly engage the visitor in a dialog.

 

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Renewal and Revival: Indecent and the Education Department

Posted on July 5th, 2017 by

Blog post by Education Intern Sara Philippe. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

 

This past weekend, I saw the Broadway show Indecent in New York City. It is a play about God of Vengeance, a Yiddish play written by Polish Jewish writer Sholem Asch in 1907 that was performed across Europe in Yiddish, and eventually in the United States where it was translated into English and performed on Broadway, and then again in Poland during World War II where it was performed in an attic in the Lodz ghetto. The show is a powerful testament to the power of art and theatre, especially in its capacity to preserve history and make it relevant in the present. It is proof that what may seem a mere remnant or artifact, is in reality, a leaving, breathing thing. Among other things, Indecent brings to life the Yiddish language and its near-extinction as a result of assimilation of Jews in the US and the Holocaust in Europe.

The opening scene of Indecent. Captions are written in English and Yiddish or Hebrew throughout.

The opening scene of Indecent. Captions are written in English and Yiddish or Hebrew throughout.

It is in this effort to tell stories that are in danger of being lost that Indecent reminds me of my work at the JMM. As Education interns, Erin and I have been working on an educational resource for the upcoming exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage, which involves us in work guided by the same overarching principle that values history and heritage for its perpetual importance. In designing activities that will allow students of all ages to have more enjoyable and meaningful experiences of the exhibit, we have endeavored to treat every aspect of the contents of the exhibit as a reflection of living people and traditions as well as of people and traditions that existed in the past. Indecent’s writer Paul Vogel, and its director Rebecca Taichman, emphasize their desire to connect the material of the play to ongoing questions of xenophobia and immigration, for example, that pertain to the present day just as much as they did in early 20th century America. They tackle these issues in explicit terms and make no attempt to tell the story of God of Vengeance as if it has ended.

As we work towards a comprehensive education reference, our goal is always to encourage the future users of the resource to see the artifacts displayed in the exhibit as more than artifacts. A badly damaged schoolbook written in Arabic and used in Iraqi Jewish schools is not a collation of pages, but rather an opportunity to discuss efforts to ensure the survival of Judeo-Arabic, spoken by Iraqi Jews, and other minority languages that may be under threat. A tik, the Torah holder used in Iraqi Jewish communities becomes an opportunity to marvel at the evolution and varied uses of language, as we create an activity that asks students to re-interpret the word “tik” through actually making their own tik inspired by what they have learned about the word’s modern-day uses in Hebrew.  The story of the anti-Jewish pogroms in Baghdad in 1941 that led many to flee their native country, are an opportunity to consider minority persecution and displacement of peoples around the world and in Iraq today.

A tik from the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

A tik from the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

The stories of the past that animate Indecent as well as the Iraqi Jewish Archive offer us so much more than just a look at a time and people gone by. They are evidence of the resiliency of any people and the continuing desire we have to discover and recover, and to turn a richness that could have been lost and relegated solely to the past, into art and education. What I am learning in the Education department is the importance of turning everything behind a glass wall in an exhibit into a living creature with meanings and implications that must not be forgotten. Though it is often impossible to bring back to life what has been lost or destroyed, it is possible to enrich the lives of people today using the creations of the people of the past.

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Intern Weekly Response: Podcast Nation

Posted on June 29th, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to explore the world of museum-related podcasts and share their reviews and recommendations with you!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

Stuff You Missed In History Class: A Review

By Collections Intern Amy Swartz

Wonder Woman

Screenshot of the Wonder Woman episode.

This week I learned more about podcasts and the ways they can be utilized to teach history and accompany a museum’s collections. The podcast that intrigued me the most was the series Stuff You Missed In History Class by the website How Stuff Works, and hosted by Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. I listened to three of their podcasts: William Moulton Marston & the Creation of Wonder Woman, The Ladies of Llangollen, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. The podcast series bring up interesting topics that one would have never learned in a history class – often because the topics are personal stories, niche subjects, or detailed biographies. However, the series brings to light many histories that are often left to the shadows; like lgbtqa or women’s history.

Example of one of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s works discussed in her episode, “Marie Antoinette With a Rose” (1783)

Example of one of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s works discussed in her episode, “Marie Antoinette With a Rose” (1783)

The podcasts start out by introducing the topic and then tells the story of whichever history they are talking about – often with little comedic quips. Each podcast ends with answering listener’s questions that were sent in after previous episodes, encouraging viewers to subscribe to the series. The podcasts do a really good job of making the historical story relatable to modern audiences. However one of the hang-ups is simply that podcasts are auditory and not visual. I found myself having to stop and google pictures of the subjects of the podcasts or works related to them. I am a visual learner so being able to see paintings or portraits is important to me for understanding a story. That being said, the two women do a really great job of being descriptive and weaving the story so that no outside resources are needed.  Ultimately, I would recommend Stuff You Missed In History Class as it is a fun informative series that covers such a large group of topics that anyone listening to it could find a topic that they think is interesting.


 

Museum Podcasts Bring the Museum to Life

By Education Intern Erin Penn

In the Alexandria ballroom, DiMeo focuses on the room itelf. He even asks the viewer to image the space without furniture.

In the Alexandria ballroom, DiMeo focuses on the room itelf. He even asks the viewer to image the space without furniture.

At Museums: Invasion of the Podcasts tells of the new and exciting trend of supplementary podcasts throughout museum exhibits. The audio is used to create a different culture at Museums, engaging the visitors in a more immersive fashion through simultaneously hearing while they see what the museum has to offer. Nate DiMeo’s museum related podcast; “The Memory Palace” discusses several art pieces and galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I specifically listened to episode three and six.

Instead of talking about the details of Vanderlyn’s painting, DiMeo describes the artist’s history instead.

Instead of talking about the details of Vanderlyn’s painting, DiMeo describes the artist’s history instead.

DiMeo’s podcast tells stories about specific rooms or paintings at the Met. Episode Three: Full Circle discuses John Vanderyln’s Panoramic View of the Gardens of Versailles. Episode Six: If You Have to be a Floor focuses on Gallery 719 the Alexandria Ballroom. A key feature and strength of these podcasts is the incorporation of background music. These orchestrations match with the time period and the setting. For instance, when discussing Vanderyln’s time in Paris the music has a quicker flashier tempo to encapsulate the vitality of France he experienced. In episode six, music plays an even more prominent role. DiMeo pushes the viewer to experience an eighteenth century ballroom, even asking the listener to dance along. The artwork and rooms come alive as the music transports the viewer to the past, exemplifying the influence of museum podcasts.


 

Contemporary Art Podcast Pushing the Boundaries of Museum Podcasts

By Collections Intern Joelle Paull

https://soundcloud.com/rawmaterialpodcast

https://soundcloud.com/rawmaterialpodcast

Raw Material, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s arts and culture podcast, is currently in its second season. It is not the museum’s first venture into podcasting, but it is certainly SFMOMA’s most highly produced. Where as many museum podcasts focus on collections or current exhibits, Raw Material looks outside of the museum and weaves together interviews with and experts from contemporary artists into larger narratives. Season two, entitled “Manifest,” explores how artists occupy and navigate the space around them, featuring artists like James Luna, Mildred Howard, and Xandra Ibarra. Each episode is surprisingly succinct, given the depth at which topics are explored, and thoughtfully crafted.

Recommended Episode: Manifest (season two) Episode 3: Home

I usually opt out of audio tours at museums, wanting to focus on the works and experience (with the exception of archeological sites.) So, as a museum lover and avid podcast listener, I was excited to explore an art podcast that was independent of the museum’s collection, yet explored art in a meaningful way. The biggest challenge in an art podcast is translating something primarily visual into an audio format, perhaps even more so with ephemeral contemporary works. I fully expected to feel as if something was missing, but I did not. Manifest’s host, Geraldine Ah-Sue, and the many artists’ interviewed describe the work in great details, incorporating sound from performances when applicable. The museum provides additional material on the podcast’s webpage, including longer interviews with artists, images, and videos. Although each episode could stand alone, the additional material is a nice addition for the listener. The podcast’s greatest strength greatest strength is the way in which it uses narratives in individual works to discuss broader issues of social justice and identity.

Season 2: Manifest

Season 2: Manifest


 

Encryption is Fun!: A Review of the International Spy Museum’s Spycast

By Exhibitions Intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

Mysterious!

Mysterious!

I’m a little bit obsessed with encryption and codebreaking so when I realized the International Spy Museum publishes the podcast Spycast, which delves into various intelligence gathering topics, I was hooked! The series is hosted by Vince Houghton and in each of the three episodes I listened to Houghton was joined by another participant who had particular knowledge to share about a specific part of intelligence gathering. The podcast takes an interview format. Houghton asks his guests a series of questions which delve into the week’s topic. The podcast has few frills. The content is presented in a straightforward conversation without inclusion of outside recorded material.

Suggested episode: David Kahn on Codebreaking from Ancient Times to the Internet Era

This is a very smart strategy for the Spy Museum. Much of intelligence gathering is not particularly well suited to being displayed in a museum exhibition. Spying is the process of gathering and filtering information. There are some gadgets for field work that are great to display, but a lot of intelligence work is sifting through previously gathered information to find and interpret important content. There is little in this process that can be displayed in a museum. I spent a large part of my spring break reading through books on encoding and decoding tactics. I read chapter books on decoding tactics and I can’t imagine understanding any of the methods through a traditional exhibit. The podcast format allows the museum to delve deeper into the less glamorous parts of intelligence work. While an exhibit should be accessible to anyone who walks into the museum it is okay if one of the museum’s weekly podcasts depends on the listener having existing understanding. For instance, if I had not read an entire chapter on enigma machines in The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Crpytography,  I wouldn’t have understood when David Kahn and Houghton were comparing enigma to the Japanese “purple” machines during their conversation about codebreaking. (A couple more reading suggestions: Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves, and Symbols, and The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World)

Find the podcast on the museum’s website! It’s also on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play!

You can find the podcast on the museum’s website – as well as on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play!

Suggested Episode: Author Debriefing: Queen of Spies Daphne Park, Britain’s Cold War Spy Master

The actual podcasts are great. Each episode is focused; there is no off topic rambling and the information shared is clear. I wish, however, that the organization of the episodes on the museum’s website was more effective.  The collection is searchable by key word, available in one long list, or collected into lists of a couple reoccurring segments. It would be helpful if the museum would put together playlists of podcasts on a single topic or at least had a list of topics covered. Making the podcasts does the work of sharing information which cannot be exhibited in the museum, but if the podcast archives are not well organized the information again becomes inaccessible.

Suggested Episode: Author Debriefing: NSA Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union


 

Historically Black: A New Must-Listen Museum Podcast

By Education Intern Sara Philippe

http://www.apmreports.org/historically-black

http://www.apmreports.org/historically-black

To begin my exploration of the world of museum podcasts, I listened to a couple episodes of Historically Black, a podcast sponsored by American Public Media and the Washington Post. The podcast, which consists of eight episodes, tells the stories of personal objects submitted to the museum by people across the United States. Each episode, the hosts focus on one topic or a specific object, including the voices of the people who submitted personal items, their family members, historians, experts, etc.

In the first episode, Black Love Stories, the hosts interview various people who sent in images of wedding rings, wedding photograph collections, love letters, etc. and engaged in a compelling conversation about the history of marriage for African Americans and current popular culture depictions of it. I enjoyed how the episode managed to pack so much variety of discussion into a short 22-minute episode.

Family wedding rings submitted to the museum by Angela Barnes, that are discussed in the episode and posted on its Tumblr page.

Family wedding rings submitted to the museum by Angela Barnes, that are discussed in the episode and posted on its Tumblr page.

Interviewees who contributed their family’s stories of marriage talked about the lack of media depictions of loving, supportive black couples and the need for the more complicated kind of treatment of marriage and family that white Americans receive in television and film. A historian and professor offered a brief history of black marriage during slavery and its condition of illegality, while other interviewees emphasized the role of the illegality of black marriages in endowing it with more meaning today. The episode ended with a focus on a black lesbian pastor couple and the challenges they have faced as gay people who are also devoted Christians living in black communities. I loved that the episode centered on personal stories like these, and allowed several people to delve into their families’ particular stories of hardship and joy, while also constantly grounding these narratives in the necessary historical context.

Episode 6 of Historically Black, Tracking Down a Slave’s Bill of Sale differs from Episode 1 in that it is entirely about one family’s copy of a bill of sale of their great-great-grandfather, an enslaved man born in 1815 to an enslaved woman and her white owner. The episode features interviews with several members of the family and follows them as they go to the courthouse where the original version of the bill of sale is located and the farm and graveyard where their ancestor lived following emancipation. We hear them describe the mixed emotions that surround the possession of this document, as well as the actual sounds of the environment as they observed the headstones on the farm, a nice touch that made the episode feel very intimate.

Below is a photograph of the Bill of Sale discussed in the episode, submitted by James McKissic.

Below is a photograph of the Bill of Sale discussed in the episode, submitted by James McKissic.

I appreciated how the hosts put this one family’s history, and the emotions attached to it in context, explaining the difficulty of tracking history and genealogy for so many African American families, and the lack of documents and items that provide personal glimpses at the past, rather than slavery-related documents that reinforce its devastating impact on black life. I love how both of these episodes enlighten listeners in terms of American history and today’s culture, while also giving voice to everyday people.


 

Hawaii in WWII, traveling back in time to paradise through Podcasts

By Exhibitions Intern Ryan Mercado.

I don’t normally listen to Podcasts much, but I have done one audio tour of a historic canal which I thought was very good. That’s why the assignment to look into Museum-based podcasts this week for the blog particularly interested me. I decided I wanted to listen to a podcast about a topic I had no knowledge about whatsoever, so I went through iTunes and eventually stumbled upon the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. I had no idea where this Museum was until a quick google search put the Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. What could be more interesting than Hawaiian history? I skimmed through the episodes and decided to listen to two episodes about Hawaiian society and day-to-day living during WWII, and also one about Japanese internment camps in Hawaii.

The formats of the podcasts were as I expected an interviewer with a Museum historian or curator who discussed the subject matter. For me personally, I can sit through a college lecture, but podcast lecture is a new feeing for me. I listened attentively and I actually really enjoyed the content I was hearing. The speaker wasn’t just listing off mundane facts but given anecdotal stories and knowledge about how Hawaiians experienced the war. I learned that during the war, Hawaii did not use US currency, but “War Money” issued by the military. The reason for this is because the US Government did not want US dollars to fall into Japanese hands if the Islands were ever invaded. I also learned that the school that President Obama attended was forcibly seized during the war and used for military operations. As a historian, that’s really cool information to learn!

The Honouliuli Internment Camp in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Honouliuli Internment Camp in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The second episode dealt with internment camps in Hawaii, which there were few. In fact, most people don’t even know that there were camps in Hawaii. The state had a 40% Japanese population at the time of the war and the US Government obviously could not round up 40% of the population, which would be crazy! So, in the state that was in the epicenter of the Pacific Theatre, the US Government had to be strategic about which Americans of Japanese descent would be rounded up and put in the camps. Obviously this history is hard to listen to, but I find it refreshing. The speakers were clear and crisp and I was interested all the way through the 45 minute lectures. Perhaps I should listen to more podcasts; after all, I need something to listen to on my 2 hour commute home every day!

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