A Bit of Information About Controversy 2

Republished from Echos

More Controversy is coming to the Ohio History Center museum.  Following the success of the innovative exhibit Controversy: Pieces You Don’t Normally See, a second round opens in February.  The new exhibit focuses on the nature of stereotypes and the construction of personal identity.

Social Media Event!
OHS Curators and Collections bloggers, Lisa Wood and Elizabeth Higgins, will be hosting a live social media event on Saturday, March 3, 2012, from 2-4pm.  Ask questions and interact with our Curators through our Facebook and Twitter (#controversy2) accounts or stop by and visit the exhibit and stop to chat with them on the museum floor (look for the table with the computer and a sign.)

About the Exhibit
Intentionally thought-provoking, the new exhibit features five objects from the Ohio Historical Society collections that Sharon Dean, director of Museum and Library Services, describes as “difficult”: a Nazi flag, a Paul Lawrence Dunbar poem written in dialect, a child’s toy bowling set with pins that feature ethnic caricatures, prints from the Currier & Ives “Darktown” series, and a 1946 Cleveland Indians jacket.

Timely Topics
As with the first Controversy exhibit, the objects will have very little interpretation, with only a short label to describe them.  More information will be available at the end of the the exhibit, in a conversation space where visitors will have the opportunity to discuss the issues with each other and write personal reflections.

The topics presented in Controversy 2 are timely, according to Dean, who says that the new exhibit complements the exhibit RACE, at COSI Columbus Jan 28-May 6, 2012, which explores differences among people, explains the realities of race, and asks the question, “Are we so different?”

“Controversy 2 complements the Race exhibit by asking questions about race from a historical perspective.”
-Sharon Dean

In the Exhibit
Published in the late 19th century, the Currier & Ives “Darktown” prints feature African Americans in stereotypical negative caricatures.  At the time, Currier & Ives described them as “pleasant and humorous designs, free from coarseness or vulgarity, being good natured hits at the populare amusements and excitements of the times.”

Bowling pin set featured in the Controversy 2 exhibit at the Ohio History Center. From the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

Also in the exhibit is a toy bowling set with pins featuring early 20th-century stereotypes of people of various ethnicity – Middle Eastern, Scottish, African American, Native American, Italian, English, Irish, Jewish, and Asian.  The set includes a tenth pin in the form of a clown as well as a cloth bowling ball.

The third item in the exhibit is an early 20th-century draft of a poem entitled “Scamp” by Paul Laurence Dunbar – interestingly, written in a stereotypical southern African American dialect.  Dunbar was the first African American writer to achieve critical acclaim and broad popularity in the United States.

The fourth object is a World War II Nazi flag taken from a tiger tank as a souvenir by Pvt. Henry J. Gordon Jr. of the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division.

Indians jacket featured in the Controversy 2 exhibit at the Ohio History Center. From the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

Finally, the exhibit will include a 1946 Cleveland Indians baseball jacket featuring the team mascot, Chief Wahoo.

Opens Feb. 29
Controversy 2 opens February 29, 2012, at the Ohio History Center in Columbus.  The exhibit is free with museum admission and admission is free for Ohio Historical Society members.

“We hope that you will visit Controversy 2 and tell us what you think,” Dean says.


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