“Sins of Omission: Fred Wilson’s Mining the Museum” by Judith E. Stein

I’ve actually heard of this exhibition by Fred Wilson before. I find the entire project both interesting and inspiring. As someone very interested in marginalized people in both history and pop culture, Wilson’s efforts to draw awareness of the erasure of black history in museums are something I can completely get behind. His installation at Baltimore’s Maryland Historical Society is especially fascinating in that he uses actual artifacts already found within the museum and simply re-contextualizes them so that the viewer thinks about them differently. My favorite description of the exhibition of of six pedestals: the three on the right hold busts of Henry Clay, Napoleon Bonaparte and Andrew Jackson, all of whom never lived in Maryland. The three pedestals on the left are empty, with plaques labeled with famous African American Maryland-residents Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass and Benjamin Banneker. I fell like this is a very effective and, quite frankly, shocking way to draw attention to how institutions often downplay the contributions of “the other” in society (“The other” in this specific example being African Americans but other non-white individuals along with women are just two of the many groups that could fill this category).

I also find the Stein’s explanation of Wilson’s exhibitions utilizing narrative compelling. Narrative is extremely important in my own work and the idea of telling a story through the context of a museum layout is thought-provoking, as it’s not the way one normally thinks of “stories.”

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