LEGOs: Love’em

Of course I played with LEGO blocks when I was a kid, and not so long ago I went out and bought a large tub of basic pieces, purportedly for use by the children of my friends, but in fact for my own therapeutic needs. Last Sunday I wrote about a LEGO master, Adam Reed Tucker, whose works are on display at the National Building Museum. And I also wrote a column about the proposed National Museum of the American Latino, which raises the following concerns:

Indeed, the entire concept of a Latino American Museum seems almost retro. Sometime between 2040 and 2050, according to a study done by the Center for the Future of Museums, today’s minority groups will make up a majority of the American population. Americans will be “hybridized,” with multiple ethnic strands to their identity.

Or, as Gregory Rodriguez of the New America Foundation put it at a lecture at the Canadian Embassy in February, “We have no idea what it means to be Latino in 2050. None.”

That’s a strange world in which to start building a museum to celebrate Latinos, especially given how problematic ethnically focused museums are. There’s resistance to them among people who don’t identify as minorities, and while much of that resistance is based in racial and ethnic animus, some of it represents legitimate concern that history won’t be well served by an infinite fracturing into sub-narratives, each under the control of a different cultural group.

It seems likely that within a generation, the Mall could have a large collection of very quiet and not terribly relevant museums. Not because the stories they have to tell are irrelevant or uninteresting, but because the game changed. The appetite for history will be for complicated master narratives that cross lines between ethnic groups, that dip into technology and economics and art, and can’t easily be told in an old-fashioned, balkanized museum of ethnic identity.

2 thoughts on “LEGOs: Love’em Leave a comment

  1. Hi Philip! Love reading your stuff. Reminds me of the ‘problem’ of the Museum of Technology in Prague. Conceived as a showcase for emerging technology in the Communist years, loving maintained thereafter, now a repository of quaintly dated artefacts…
    Hope to catch up soon.

  2. Philip—
    Thank you, thank you, for your review in this morning’s WaPo of Annie Leibovitz’s current exhibit.
    Although I have long felt the same about her work ( and thought I was just being an old crank since I’m clearly in a small minority), there is no way I could have discussed it with the worded scalpel & such laser-like precision
    as you did. .
    ( the best I could ever do in referring to her work was saying that it always has sort of given me the creeps—and that she is the “Ralph Lauren of Photography” )
    PS I AM a professional photographer. Buildings, mostly. I’ve worked extensively with the National Building Museum, at the Soldiers Home and, until recently, Evermay.
    Again , thanks!

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