Lewis and Clark

Arts, Crafts, and Manifest Destiny

Arts, Crafts, and Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny in 1804?

Manifest Destiny in 1804?

Stumbled across this while on my occasional hunt to find a rare Boulevard Beer Lewis and Clark sign I spotted at restaurant once. It’s nice to see that the spirit of Manifest Destiny is alive and well in the arts and crafts community. “This listing is for an 6.25 x 10.5″ unmatted, unframed print of the Territorial Development of the United States from 1776 to 1866 with the saying Manifest Destiny and people who made that idea possible.” I assume this item is supposed to be celebratory. I’m not so sure the problem is that the creator doesn’t fully grasp the concept of Manifest Destiny. Instead, I’m more disturbed that s/he doesn’t realize how synonymous the term is with Indian extermination policies, the belief in God given superiority, or any of the other nuanced problems the concept poses. On top of that, with pictures of Lewis, Clark, Washington, and Jefferson, s/he completely got the timing of their history wrong. Poor form all around.

I sent the poster a kindly worded email urging them to remove the listing. A bit of one-on-one public history if you will.

“Does that say Lewis and Clark?”

Impulsive Me: Hey, you know how I’m working for the Autry for free all summer, far exceeding the number of hours I actually need to fulfill my internship?

Sensical Me: …yes.

Impulsive Me: Well, even though they put me with the Exhibit Design team because Curatorial didn’t have time to mentor an intern this summer, how about I volunteer to help them anyway, on top of the internship I’m already doing?

Sensical Me: That’s really going to cut into my Wii time. And the time you’ve reserved in case you actually decide to get a job that pays you for the rest of the summer. 

Impulsive Me: Forget it! This sounds awesome!

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Today I met with Dr. Carolyn Brucken, Curator of Women of the West and Interim VP of Curatorial and Exhibitons at the Autry National Center. I wanted to pick her brain about her job, her views on public history today and find out more about running a mid-size (large, if you ask me) curatorial team. 

Our meeting ended with her showing me the storyboard for an exhibit they’re planning for 2015 on the Civil War in the West. It’s fair to say my interest was aroused right off the bat when I saw the pictures and theme ideas she had thumb tacked to the wall: “Kit Carson,” “John Brown,” “Buffalo Soliders,” “John C. Fremont,” “Bosque Redondo,” “Missouri Compromise of 1820,” “The US and Mexican War,” etc. But it was when she said “I want to begin the story with Lewis and Clark,” I admit, I think I was a bit more than aroused. The words lept out of my mouth, “Any additional research you need done I’d be more than happy to help you with. Anything at all, really.” 

But in all serious this looks like it will be a great exhibit. Her idea is to explore the concept of the Civil War from East to West and West to East, not just North and South. Starting with the two enslaved members of the Corps of Discovery, Clark’s slave York and Sacajawea, involuntary wife of the worthless Charbonneau, the exhibit will move on the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which according to Dr. Brucken, solidified slavery as a polarizing debate in the West for the nineteenth century. 

Once again pulling out my Fort Union experience as a qualifier, noting that I’d already done a lot research on the Civil War in the West and that we had explored similar themes, I could see her nibbling on my hook in her head when I offered to help. She agree somewhat hesitantly, but then became more excited with the possibility of me hunting down artifacts and objects for her because of my connections. (Still not sure what those connections are.) However, I think this will be a great experience and hopefully help me find a thesis topic. I’m trying to prove my merit to the museum and am doing everything I can to get in bed with the curatorial department at the Autry. 

Lastly, she handed me this book to read:

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Reviews to come.