Representation and Reality in Museum Building: A Case Study of the El Paso Museum of History

By Maceo Crenshaw Dailey and Jessica Suzette Santascoy.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In June 2007 the new El Paso Museum of History opened its doors to the public. Over two years of development and planning had taken place and inclusiveness was expected. Instead, collections reflect the history of the region through a colonial, male-dominated lens. Women are stereotyped, indigenous people are represented by tokens of their culture, and the contributions of African Americans are downplayed. Adhering to the storyline of colonialism, the largest and most prominent exhibit is a replica of a mission façade. Next to this façade, children can build a mini-mission with wooden blocks, re-enacting the forced indigenous labor upon which the Spaniards relied. In this way, children unknowingly participate in a historically traumatic period, reifying the colonial subtext of the exhibit and the public “art” in El Paso.
These limitations are not only damaging to the local communities presumed to be represented, but also to tourists who get only a smattering of both the uniqueness and richness of our common past and heritage.
This paper will explore not only the many missed museum opportunities to address diversity and multiculturalism, but will provide concrete policy recommendations and suggestions for museums in the areas of planning, staffing, exhibit development, and fundraising.

Keywords: Indigenous, El Paso, Mexico, Border, Spain, Inclusive Museum, Diverse, Representation, Colonialism, Representation, Plurality

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.87-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 797.550KB).

Dr. Maceo Crenshaw Dailey

Director, African American Studies Program and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA

Dr. Maceo Crenshaw Dailey, Jr. is the director of the African American Studies Program and Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has taught at Smith College, Boston College, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Howard University and New York University. He co-edited Wheresoever My People Chance To Dwell with Kristine Navarro and Tuneful Tales with Ruthe Winegarten. He has published in journals such as The Atlanta History Journal, Harvard Business History Review, Review of Black Political Economy, and Sage. Dr. Dailey is writing a biography of Emmett Jay Scott, amanuensis to the famed American leader Booker T. Washington. Dr. Dailey has over 20 years of museum experience. He has served on the boards of the Apex Museum, Hammonds House Museum, Bob Bullock Texas Museum and was two-time chair of Humanities Texas. He has been a consultant to the Atlanta History Center and the Smithsonian Museum. Currently he is the on the advisory board of the El Paso Museum of Art. Dr. Dailey has been named to Who’s Who Among American Teachers, Who’s Who In The East, Who’s Who In America, and Who’s Who In The World.

Jessica Suzette Santascoy

Diversity and Programming Consultant, El Paso, TX, USA

Jessica Suzette Santascoy holds an MA in Media Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York City and has taught at The New School’s Eugene Lang College in the Cultural Studies Department. As the Director of Education at the El Paso Museum of History, she implemented 20 public programs in 5 hours for under $12,000, recruited over 50 volunteers within three months, and designed a diversity and heritage series. She has taught art and movement to children in museum settings, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. She has created numerous programs including a post 9/11 re-employment program in New York City, a transitional educational initiative at the community college level, and an interactive museum tour that meets state educational standards. She designs programs using multi-media and directs video and sound pieces. Ms. Santascoy has experience with underserved at-risk populations including communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and El Paso’s public housing recipients. Ms. Santascoy has experience teaching people from all over the world, from the first grade through university level. See www.jessicasantascoy.com

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