A learning experience can be considered effective if it results in the acquisition of new knowledge or developing of new perceptions by a person. In the recent past, I visited three museums that represent various ethnic groups. These museums are; the Wing Luke Museum, The Burke museum, and the Cambodian Cultural Museum. I followed up my visit with research on the various ethnic groups. From these experiences, I gained a number of insights which I wish to reflect on.
I will through this paper give a reflection on what I learnt from my research as well as from writing the research paper on exhibition museums. In particular, I will give my opinion on the how I think the museums represented the various groups and how my perspectives on museum exhibits about ethnic groups were altered by my research.
In my opinion, the museums to a large extent succeeded in representing their groups in a positive manner. The Wing Luke Museum highlighted the life experiences of the Asian-Pacific Americans and from this information; one was left with a deep respect and regard for this people. The Burke museum did a very good job in trying to explain the culture and the ways of Native Americans. From this information, my appreciation of the rich culture of the Native Americans was increased.
The museum also presented a lot of information on the Ainu group. Before my visit to the museum, my knowledge of this group was almost non-existent. The museum dispelled my ignorance though various exhibits of this people. They were represented as an active trader group who conducted commerce with neighboring countries since historical times.
The Cambodian Cultural Museum also documented historical events faced by the Cambodians as well as their popular culture. By learning about the culture and the art of the Cambodian people, I developed a greater interest in them and their culture. In my opinion, the museum succeeded in its quest to preserve the history of the group thorough its visitors.
To me, the museums did a good job in dispelling stereotypes and I believe that the groups represented in the museums are perceived more favorably as a result of the exhibitions. The American society is characterized by a great diversification since the nation is made up of people from differing races and cultures. In most cases, there exists misinformation about minority and ethnic groups which results in over generalization.
People are therefore predisposed to judge the ethnic groups based on the narrow minded and, in most cases, misguided preconceptions they have about them. Each museum was keen to promote a deeper understanding of various cultures and tolerance. This is a very positive attribute since a deeper understanding of different cultures results in appreciation and respect for the particular culture and its people.
However, I felt that the Burke Museum may have led to a negative image for the Ainu group. The museum presented a lot of information on the Ainu group which is the native people of the region referred to as Hokkaido in Japan.
I felt that the emphasis on the rituals and ceremonies undertaken by the Ainu only served to reinforce the stereotype that they are a backwards people who have failed to move on with the modern times. Such reinforcements are bad since they encourage the discrimination against the Ainu which takes place even today.
While I appreciated the positive manner in which the Wing Luke Museum and the Burke museum represented their respective ethnic groups, I felt that a great injustice was done in failing to address the bleak experiences by the groups. The Asian-Pacific Americans suffered from discrimination and oppression in their process of settling into America and I feel that these experiences are of importance.
As a matter of fact, the Native Indians have had a mostly turbulent past in the United States with many events of Indian wars and aggressive attempts by the federal government to assimilate Indians. From my research, I discovered that the Ainu are discriminated by the Japanese today and continue to be frustrated just as they were in history. The museum failed to highlight this history for fear of causing uneasiness among visitors.
In my opinion this is a very misguided outlook since positive change can only occur if people are made aware of evils in the society such as racism and discrimination. However, I understand that the decision not to highlight this dark history might have had to do with the policies of the museums which dictate the manner in which they present their artifacts.
The Cambodian Cultural Museum was significantly different in that it did not shy from publicly documenting the acts of violence perpetrated against the Cambodians. While I previously held the opinion that museums should avoid displaying the bleaker history of an ethnic group, my museum experience made me reconsider this thought.
Following my visit to the Cambodian Cultural museum, I came to recognize that public awareness can help bring about reconciliation since it enables people to talk about the past and make peace.
While the other museums were of the opinion that presenting information on death and violence would displease the museum visitors, the Cambodian museum say public awareness as a means of preventing such atrocities in future. By sharing the Cambodian people’s story, I was able to appreciate how brave they were and sympathize with the violent history that they had had in their country.
As a result of my research, the manner in which I approach museum exhibits about ethnic groups has been forever changed. I have in the past perceived museums as leisure places whose primary role is to present the visitor with interesting artifacts, scientific objects, and/or information about people.
This perception was profoundly changed by my visit to the three museums and I now know that museums can also be used as tools for championing reform. The museums encouraged the visitors to take up an active role in championing the role of ethnic groups and fighting discrimination.
While I embarked on my visits to the museums with an open mind, I must admit that I did not expect the experience to have any profound impact on me. As it turned out, the experience was very enriching and it changed the manner in which I perceive museum exhibits about ethnic groups. I am now excited at the prospect of future museum visits and I will encourage my friends to do the same. This is because visiting museum exhibits about ethnic groups helps to create a positive perception of ethnic groups and dispel off stereotypical views.