So-Called "Museums" and "Libraries"
(Okay, let's get the Alzheimer jokes and the giggling over with.)
Most thefts from libraries and archives (and presidential libraries really are archives rather than libraries) are the result of an inside job, unfortunately. Lax security, understaffing, and poor recordkeeping procedures are usually the culprits, as they seem to be in this case. And certainly, bad cataloging practices can plague any library (as it does the Goddard Space Flight Center library, which misshelved the original film footage of the moon landing).
However, much as I wanted to avoid puerile snickering, I could not help but remember this comment on the AOL News website from “olsen1000” (11:28:02 AM Nov 08 2007):
The concept of presidential libraries probably originated in the days when there were men of education and culture running the country. Reagan? Bushes? What are they going to put in their libraries? Comic books? Or, in the case of GWB, the straw he snorted coke with?
Be damn reasonable for Christ's sake. Reagan's head was empty for a large part of his presidency, and so is his library.
(“Look on Ebay,” sneers another commenter, “OJ has them!” crows another, along with the requisite “Liberals hate freedom” and a debate on Reagan's legacy as President - and the inevitable Alzheimer jokes.)
I must say I find the concept of the presidential library a silly holdover from a time when there were few public or academic libraries or historical societies. I would rather that we invest in those. (And yes, I say the same about the Clinton Library and any other devoted to a Democrat.)
But I leave you with that thought and move on to the article in the current Museum News on Ken Ham’s Creation Museum.
The institution’s status as a museum is, by itself, likely to aid its cause. A national study published by AAM (American Association of Museums) in 2001 found that “Almost 9 our of 10 Americans (87%) find museums to be one of the most trustworthy or a trustworthy source of information among a wide range of choices.” (I shall try to provide a link to this study.) Books were a distant second at 61 percent, and a majority found print and broadcast media and the Internet not to be trustworthy. Schools were viewed as the most important educational source for children, but museums and libraries were next in line. The International Council of Museums (ICOM), for example, identifies a museum simply as “A non-profit-making, permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment." The museum profession has not formally addressed the issue of what a museum exhibits.
“What would we do if someone built a museum syaing the Holocaust didn't happen?' asked Gene Kritsky (professor of biology at the College of Mount St. Joseph), ‘that slavery was a right of the early colonists?’”
…The Creation museum is not alone in its mission: The website www.creationism.org lists 12 other “creation centers and museum” in the United States (as well as one in Alberta, Canada), and the 2007 Official Museum Directory adds four more.
I definitely see Ken Ham’s “museum” and the creation of others like it as a grab for credibility and legitimacy in building this parody of a legitimate institution (which is an ongoing attempt to build a parallel Christian society, with “universities” like Regent and Liberty, and Christianized “degree programs"). However, credibility and legitimacy have to be earned—through time, through contribution to the profession via legitimate and demonstrable research, through publishing in refereed journals. (Of course there are a slew of creationist “journals” lauding "research.”) I doubt that Ham is an AAM member; I doubt he even knows what that organization is.
And of course, any museum must sustain its staff, and building, and its collection through valid processes, such as cataloging and conservation. Ken Ham’s Creation Museum has had a good year, with 400,000 visitors so far. But only time will tell its true success – and (being that they seems to always have so little of it, between a 6,000 year old earth and an immanent Rapture) time has never been on the side of the creationists.