We are faced with two difficult questions as a nation; Should we-(referring to the United States), maintain the status quo and keep controversial statues of historical figures in our public square or should we begin to ask ourselves-(in the wake of Charlottesville), the deeper ethical meaning behind maintaining such statues on public property? Do we “progress” towards an America that promotes and justifies a wildly iconoclastic approach towards our public and monumental history or do we “conserve” an America that embellishes a romanticized-(and at times, mythologized) history through the veneration of public monuments?
Perhaps there is a third option, a middle ground to this ongoing debate. Maybe the Museum can serve in a uniquely and unofficial diplomatic capacity whereby it literally and symbolically protects a nation’s cultural legacy from the ravages and eruptions of youthful disquiet, while also promoting the values of historical education and awareness by acknowledging-(but not hysterically exclaiming), the moral deficiencies of such figures and symbols.
These are the challenges that must be addressed through “Museum Diplomacy”.
(Still in its early draft, more needs to be written and refined!)
Alex Philips is the Author of, “Museum Diplomacy” and the Founder of E-Commentary.