May 24, 2013
COLUMBUS — Ohio’s history museum is planning a sequel to last year’s exhibit of provocative articles that included the state’s old electric chair and a Ku Klux Klan robe, this time focusing on stereotypes and race.
Starting Feb. 29, the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus will display a Nazi flag captured in Germany by a Cleveland soldier in 1945, more than a dozen late 19th century Currier & Ives prints with caricatures of blacks, and a 1940s Cleveland Indians jacket with an emblem of the “Chief Wahoo” mascot as part of a small exhibit called “Controversy 2: Pieces We Don’t Normally Talk About.”
Last year’s exhibit, which ran for eight months, was titled “Controversy: Pieces You Don’t Normally See.” The new display will include only limited information about the featured articles to encourage viewers to form their own interpretations and opinions, just as the last one did.
It’s a break from history museums’ typical practice of providing more thorough context for exhibits, said Mark Holbrook, the Ohio Historical Society’s marketing manager.
“To let the visitors bring their own context to it is something new, but we found that it’s something people appreciate,” he said.
Nearly 6,000 people viewed the first exhibit, which cost $5 above the regular admission price. The center has decided to drop that fee and include access to the new exhibit as part of the $10 admission for adults and teenagers, Holbrook said.
Children under age 18 will need to be accompanied by an adult to view the articles, which will be on display through Dec. 30.
“Controversy 2” also will include a handwritten original manuscript by Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar written in post-slavery southern black dialect and an early 1900s bowling set for children, Holbrook said. Most of the fabric-covered bowling pins depict Middle Eastern, Irish, Jewish, Asian and other ethnic stereotypes.
The historical society may consider doing another display in the “Controversy” series depending on the reaction to the new exhibit.
“We’ll evaluate that as we get into the year,” Holbrook said. “As long as the response continues to be good and positive, we’re committed to the concept — providing a museum experience where the visitors decide what their experience is.”