Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cultural Absentee

Wandering in and out of museums in DC this weekend got me wondering about the value of preserving artifacts of a culture that is not yet extinct. Seeing the many African American families in National Museum of African Art provided part of the answer.

While it could be good introduction for kids who are growing up cultural absentees, yet in being a showcase no intimate connections can be formed. They could come away educated, awed and proud about their roots - absenteeism is not remedied.

For a cultural outsider the museum is a visual sampling platter calculated to pique interest. One may go away wanting to find out more or travel to the country to immerse in the culture more satisfactorily. We met a bunch of unlikely museum visitors in the elevator of the American Indian Museum.

A gaggle of giggly teenagers from Louisiana were greeting everyone who got on and made cute small talk with them. First time out of their home state, they were excited by the diversity of their encounters which was quite unlike anything they had seen. In one day they had met people from around the world without even stepping out of the museum elevator. I thought it was a charming idea - trust kids to think out of the box.

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