Friday, October 02, 2009

The Remarkable Jim Crow Museum: A Macabre, Bracing Meditation on Race, Ethnicity, and Collecting in the Americas

As a collector and curator of real and digital artifacts, I have to give credit where credit is due--I just spent a sleepless hour wandering the virtual corridors of the Jim Crow online museum. Formidable stuff.

For anyone with an interest of the history of race and consumer culture in the U.S., it is a must-see, must-visit archive of horrors. Here's a taste from the curator, David Pilgrim's, essay "The Garbage Man: Why I Collect Racist Objects," about the time he visited a collector of African American tchotchkes:

If I live to be 100 I will never forget the feeling that I had when I saw her collection; it was sadness, a thick, cold sadness. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of objects, side-by-side, on shelves that reached to the ceiling. All four walls were covered with some of the most racist objects imaginable. I owned some of the objects, others I had seen in Black Memorabilia price guides, and others were so rare I have not seen them since. I was stunned. Sadness. It was as if I could hear the pieces talking, yowling. Every conceivable distortion of black people, our people, was on display. It was a chamber of horrors. She did not talk. She stared at me; I stared at the objects. One was a life-sized wooden figure of a black man, grotesquely caricatured. It was a testament to the creative energy that often lurks behind racism. On her walls was a material record of all the hurt and harm done to Africans and their American descendants. I wanted to cry. It was at that moment that I decided to create a museum. source.
For the main site, hit the image here to your right.

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