Lilycove at Shady Grove

Lilycove is not actually a real place anywhere near the Shady Grove Metro. Lilycove is a fictional city (with an art museum called the Lilycove Museum) in the imaginary world of Pokémon. The imaginary world of Pokémon, meanwhile, has recently taken over society. This takeover includes real-world museums, and it also includes the part of the real world that is near the Shady Grove station, the Red Line’s western terminus in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The Pokémon franchise has been around for 20 years, and includes an anime TV show and movies, comic books, and games (both electronic and card). I remember in high school, catching glimpses of the anime series as my brother watched it, and learning the various species’ names and types as he taught me how to play the card game. It was only this summer that my interest in the world of Pokémon was reignited, as interest in Pokémon simultaneously exploded far and wide with the release of Niantic’s augmented reality app Pokémon Go.

At first, I was reluctant to download the app. Isn’t reality interesting enough without being augmented? Isn’t there something a little…creepy about superimposing fake things on real spaces? And if I start playing this game, won’t I get addicted?

My brother and a good friend convinced me that I would love the game, so I did download it, and I did indeed become addicted. When the game loads quickly, works properly, and measures distance accurately, it is an incredibly fun way to spend time, giving me something to do during the walking part of my commute or providing that extra motivation to take a walk just for the heck of it.

The world of Pokémon overlaps its important locations with real-world places, including museums. Important sites in the game, Pokéstops and gyms, are real-life points of interest such as museums, libraries, churches, restaurants, and parks. Each Pokéstop (where you can go to pick up in-game items and XP points) contains a photo and short description of the real-world landmark. In some cases, the landmark may be so small or blend so well with the urban landscape that you might not have been aware of it until the Pokéstop pointed it out to you: a tree with a tiny memorial plaque in front of it, a quirky sculpture on a rooftop. (The Pokéstops are not always up-to-date, and some of the outdoor sculptures that appear on Pokémon Go’s map have been moved or removed in real life.)

Not every Pokéstop is museum-related, but a decent chunk of them are. Near the Shady Grove Metro –  which to my knowledge has no museums nearby – the Metro station itself, a restaurant, and a church serve as Pokéstops. But in downtown DC where I work, Pokéstops I can easily reach while walking around at lunch include a piece of art at the Renwick, a plaque outside the Octagon, and a gargoyle atop the Corcoran.

Photo of a phone showing the Shady Grove Metro Station Pokéstop, at the actual Shady Grove Metro.

The Shady Grove Metro stop is a Pokéstop.

Aside from the literal intersection of virtual Pokéstops and gyms with real museums, Pokémon Go also relates to cultural sites by tapping into some of the same human inclinations that bring people to visit and love museums. After all, Pokémon Go is all about exploring places and building a collection. An article on the psychology of Pokémon Go discusses two types of collecting, taxonomic and aesthetic. Pokémon Go, which encourages players to “catch ‘em all”, is an example of the former. Meanwhile, blogger Andrew Reinhard writes about Pokémon Go as a prime example of archeogaming, declaring that the game “might be the best thing to happen to archaeology (or at least archaeological tourism) in years.”

Despite how utterly enjoyable this app has been for me and countless other players, it has not blended seamlessly with reality, but rather, it has come with controversy, mishaps, and naysayers. While Pokémon Go certainly did not invent distracted driving or walking, the fact that it is meant to be played while walking exacerbates the likelihood that players become too absorbed in the game and too oblivious to real-world surroundings, leading to some unfortunate results. The game’s premise, promoting getting out and moving around in order to reap the in-game rewards, looks good on paper but can be tragic in areas plagued by landmines or crime.

The world of museums and tourism is divided on what to make of Pokémon Go (not surprising, given that these visitor destinations are not a monolithic category of places). Memorials and museums that interpret some of the most horrendous moments in human history, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, have, quite understandably, asked Pokémon trainers not to partake of the app in their spaces. (Just as Pokémon Go did not invent distraction or landmines, the Washington Post points out that the game also did not invent rudeness in solemn surroundings.)

Meanwhile, the game has been dubbed a gift to museums in one article, while another writer ponders whether the app is a blessing or a curse. From one scathing webpage which is not loading for me today, I fortunately had the foresight to copy the quote, “When a Pokéhunter arrives at a[n archaeological] site (drawn by the lure of a rich Pokéstop) they are in the classic state of Cartesian disconnect.”

Questions have arisen, in a legal sense or otherwise, regarding who owns virtual space. While the makers of Pokémon Go attempted to map their gyms and Pokéstops onto existing public spaces, some mishaps ensued – such as when a man living in a house that had been converted from a church began to notice people outside his dwelling at all hours, because his churchlike home had been designated a Pokémon Go gym.

Niantic has since created a method for requesting the removal of an inappropriate gym or Pokéstop. (Proposed legislation known as Pidgey’s Law would fine Niantic for not doing removing Pokéstops as requested.) However, as virtual and augmented reality continue to develop, challenges will pop up when virtual points of interest pop up. Cities may begin looking at zoning according to virtual reality among other factors; the small historic town of Occoquan, Virginia is trying to come to terms with being taken over by Pokémon Go due to its abundance of historical landmarks and its prevalence of Water Pokémon spawning along the river.

If it is agreed that people should have some control over the virtual layer(s) of their own space, additional questions arise: who decides on a particular building’s virtual accessibility, its owner or its tenant? How do we navigate the disagreements that the public may have about appropriate use of public areas? One Sunday this summer, I had lunch with a frequent library patron who said that she believes libraries are sacred and are not appropriate places for playing Pokémon Go. The following Sunday, I had lunch with a library employee, who mentioned that she knows people are playing the game at her workplace and has no issue with it.

While some museums have been forthright that their collections and the whimsical collection of Pokémon are incompatible, many other museums have embraced the app. For example, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is noted in this article as one place in the city to go catch Pokémon and in this article as one art museum using the game to engage audiences. Shortly after the game was released, the museum hosted a Pokémon Go-themed Meetup during its pay-what-you-wish hours.

I visited the PMA nearly a decade ago, long before the advent of Pokémon Go. My friend and I explored the whole museum, and I photographed some of the art, including art depicting animals like a snake, a dog, and dolphins, as well as the Rocky steps. Today, visitors can go look for Ekans, Growlithe, and various Water and Rock Pokémon among the museum’s acclaimed art and famed architecture.

coiled snake made out of volcanic rock

Aztec Serpent sculpture, photographed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007. It may not be an Ekans, but it is a snake.

For those museums that do want to lure Pokémon Go-playing visitors, Preservation Maryland offers some tips here, and the Virginia Association of Museums raises some questions to help museum professionals consider the game. The Museum Playbook offers some guidance on utilizing the app in the museum field, and Museum Hack discusses how getting in on the Pokémon Go action can help attract millennials to informal learning sites. In her blog, Mar Dixon published a guest post examining the social facilitation that can happen in museums via Pokémon Go. Forward-thinking museum people are considering the possibilities that augmented reality could offer the world of interpretation.

Some additional examples of Pokémon Go in the museum include:

At art museums…

At history museums…

At science museums…

Whether you are searching for Pokémon among museum exhibits or at a suburban Metro terminus, I wish you luck in connecting to the server and catching 101 Magikarps. Stay safe, and keep it classy when you’re at a memorial or sacred site.

Shady Grove is a Metro stop and Pokéstop on the Red Line.

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A Literary Thrill at Rockville

I have previously written about VisArts (here) and Beall-Dawson House (here), two sites near the Rockville Metro station. Another point of interest is St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located right next to the Metro and MARC Train stations.

The church’s cemetery is where F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such classics as The Great Gatsby, is buried. When I stopped by, his grave was adorned with flowers, pens, and liquor. Readers clearly have been making pilgrimages to pay their respects; interest in the landmark particularly spiked after The Great Gatsby movie came out in theaters in 2013.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's grave at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Rockville, MD. Rainy, covered with flowers, a few pens, a couple bottles of alcohol.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, MD

St. Mary’s is also a literary point of interest due to its role in the children’s novel Stealing Freedom by Elisa Carbone. Stealing Freedom tells the story of 13-year-old slave Ann Maria Weems, who escaped to freedom in Canada in the 1850s. Before her escape, historical records indicate she may have worshiped at St. Mary’s (where she would have had to stay in the loft reserved for slaves as well as free African Americans), and it is a recurring setting in the book. The smaller historical church stands to this day, while a more modern-looking building has been added as well for the still-active congregation.

Carbone is a local author, and a member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. I heard her speak at the Guild’s luncheon back in 2005. Stealing Freedom takes place almost entirely in Maryland and DC, and Carbone’s research included using visiting St. Mary’s as well as the Montgomery County Historical Society (which maintains Beall-Dawson House as a museum), among other resources.

Rockville is not hopping with tourism and nightlife like parts of downtown DC, but it does serve as its county seat and offer a couple museums, historical points of interest, and restaurants and a movie theater. I also associate this station with Montgomery College, which I traveled to by Metro-plus-bus for a few classes in the years between college and grad school. While the REM song “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” often played in my head during the long commute after a long class session after a long workday, there have been some good reasons to go back to Rockville after all.

Rockville is on the Red Line.

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Festivals of Italy, Summer 2015

I have posted some pictures from the trip my father and I took to Italy last summer, but I have not properly written about it. Our trip, which lasted a little less than two weeks, was spent in Rome during the weekdays and punctuated by visits to smaller towns with major festivals during the two weekends. In this post I will focus on those weekend excursions.

We spent the first weekend in the valley city of Sulmona (population 24,854) and the second weekend in the tiny mountain town of Fallo (population 155). The itinerary required us to travel back and forth across the country, staying in hotels in two different parts of Rome, which may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. However, this schedule (for which my father deserves full credit) allowed us to visit places like the Vatican, the Roman Forum, and the Capitoline Museums during the week, and to see the parades for the Giostra Cavallaresca in Sulmona and the Festa in Fallo that took place during the weekends.

One translation for the word giostra is joust, and as I (in all my general ignorance of sports) understand it, it is a contest involving lances and horses, but is not exactly the same as what English speakers refer to as jousting. The competition in the Giostra involves trying to accumulate rings on one’s lance, while riding on horseback in a figure-8 pattern.

Giostra parade, Sulmona, Italy, July 2015

Giostra parade, Sulmona, Italy, July 2015

My father and I did not watch more than a couple of minutes of the competition itself, as it was hot and crowded and we could barely see a thing. However, we did see afternoon/evening parades both evenings we were in Sulmona, and when we walked around the town during the day, we saw different areas decorated with specific team colors. In the processions, people in medieval dress marched down the main thoroughfare, representing their respective teams with pride.

As intriguing as it was to see these aspects of the Giostra, the events in higher-altitude Fallo had additional layers of interest for us, as this was basically our ancestral homeland. Our last name (hard to spell, hard to pronounce, hard to remember), uncommon in most of the world, is ubiquitous in Fallo. It may belong to the majority of the people there, though I can’t say so with absolute certainty.

In Fallo, my father and I joined other relatives from our extended family for delicious meals of pasta and for the Festa events. I was the newbie, having never been to Fallo before, and I got an informal tour that included the exterior of the house where my grandfather lived as a child, the field where the family worked, the church and its affiliated smaller chapel, and so many hills.

Festa parade, Fallo, Italy

Festa parade, Fallo, Italy, August 2015

There were parades Saturday night and early afternoon Sunday. San Vicenzo (Saint Vincent) is Fallo’s patron saint, and during the parades, a sculpture of his likeness was marched through the town, adorned with jewels and other gifts of gratitude for good fortune. Fallo is so tiny that it does not have its own priest, so a priest who serves multiple small Italian towns led the Mass and the march, and a marching band and fire-eating performers were brought in from nearby locales as well.

As someone who loves holidays and celebrations, I truly enjoyed being in Sulmona and Fallo during their festival weekends. I was impressed by the big party a tiny town like Fallo was able to throw. (Like other family members and me, some far-flung relatives return to their Fallese roots and come back to visit during this special annual event.) I am not one to cling to tradition in everyday life or policymaking, but I do appreciate longstanding customs in the context of marking occasions via holidays and parades.

Although there is still so much of the world I have never seen and want to see, it would also be wonderful to go back to Sulmona, and especially Fallo, someday. It would be even more wonderful to learn a bit more Italian before I do so.

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Musings on Museums and Festivals

In May, The Conversation published Jonathan Wynn’s provocatively-titled piece, “Why Cities Should Stop Building Museums and Focus on Festivals.” It was not a diatribe against museums per se, but more of a cautionary discussion related to the economic and societal effects of continuing to build more museums.

Wynn argues based on his research that building new infrastructure like museums and stadiums, while touted as a way to boost local economies and revitalize blighted areas, actually are a drain on cities’ resources and economies. The temporary and movable nature of festivals, by contrast, provides an alternative form of cultural offering to the community and tourists.

This article came out in advance of the summer’s many festivals (two of which I attended in DC) as well as the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Wynn characterizes the Olympics as an example of an “invasive ‘mega event’” leaving in its wake “concrete cultural infrastructure that monopolize[s] scarce real estate, leaving spaces underutilized for decades.”)

As someone who enjoys museums and festivals alike, I can’t help but get excited about any new museum. (Oooh, another interesting place to visit!) But the decision to build a new museum needs to take into account factors like financial feasibility, impact on the immediate surroundings, and resources to maintain the new museum while also sustaining already-existing museums.

Museums require an initial investment, but also continued resources in order to keep the doors open. In the last few years, the DC area has seen the demise of the non-profit Corcoran Gallery of Art, the for-profit National Museum of Crime and Punishment, and Arlington’s city-funded Artisphere. Meanwhile, grantmakers love flashy new buildings and wings, and are often not so interested in keeping a non-profit’s lights on (a phenomenon regularly discussed on the dryly witty Nonprofit with Balls blog).

Wynn further argues that festivals are more inclusive than museums, as festivals are often free. DC may be anomalous in that it has so many free museums and festivals, in addition to museums and festivals that charge admission.

Do museums and festivals offer comparable experiences to visitors? As I looked back on the Around the World Cultural Food Festival, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, earlier this summer, I noted a number of similarities with museums.

A performance of Mixteco dance by Nuu Yuku/Danza de los Diablos de San Miguel Cuevas at the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Sounds of California). Four men shown in masks and costumes made from animal parts, dancing boisterously for an audience.

A performance of Mixteco dance by Nuu Yuku/Danza de los Diablos de San Miguel Cuevas at the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Sounds of California)

The Folklife Festival is, of course, itself sponsored by an institution of museums. Each year’s festival is filled with objects and exhibits, and the Smithsonian constantly has programming in the form of lectures and performances inside its buildings, just as at the stages and tents at Folklife. Further overlap between the Smithsonian’s museums and Folklife Festival can be found in the small buildings that are put up on the National Mall each year as part of the festival.

This year, the cultures featured in the Folklife Festival were Basque Country and California. In the Basque section, I watched a dance workshop by Aukeran, viewed paintings by Jesus Mari Lazkano, and perused displays of traditional foods, crafts, and sports. My time in the Sounds of California area included music and dance performances, a talk by Janet Abrams about pets around the world and in immigration stories, and an installation that invited visitors to answer questions about ideas of home and migration on sticky notes.

At the Around the World Cultural Food Festival, area restaurants sold their fare at booths while a single stage showcased cultural performances. I ate Peruvian food, watched Bolivian dance, and caught the tail end of someone on stage speaking about the traditional Romanian ie, which would be celebrated one week later on the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse.

Morenada Central VA takes to just-in-front-of-the-stage to perform Bolivian dance at the Around the World Cultural Food Festival in June 2016. Stage itself is empty, but dancers in bright dress are performing in a circle in front of the stage on a very bright hot sunny day.

Morenada Central VA takes to just-in-front-of-the-stage to perform Bolivian dance at the Around the World Cultural Food Festival in June 2016

When thinking about the visitor experience at festivals versus museums, the first major difference that occurred to me was perhaps a superficial one: the food tends to be much better at festivals. Trying the cuisine is one of the highlights of the Folklife Festival, and the Around the World Cultural Food Festival has food in its very name. With some exceptions, my experience with museum food is that you grab a tray, pay for your square of pizza or cellophane-wrapped sandwich, and sit down in the cafeteria because eating in the museum café was more convenient than trying to decide on a restaurant.

Beyond the culinary differences between museums and festivals, there is a more profound difference between what the two can offer. Festivals have a jovial, celebratory atmosphere; they are designed to be social and heavily attended. Crowds are expected. Museums can be those things, but can also be somber, quiet, and downright depressing as they educate visitors about some of the darkest moments in history. Consider the word festive in contrast to muse.

This is not to say that festivals never touch on serious topics. On the Sounds of California stage, the group FandangObon mentioned the bombing of Hiroshima during their demonstrations of Buddhist drumming and dance. Nevertheless, the speaker saw fit to include a disclaimer that the song they were about to perform was controversial, and while it included the Japanese word for bomb, I felt it had an uplifting tone of peace and hope.

These festivals took place in June and July and are now long gone from the National Mall, while the surrounding museums and monuments still stand. Wynn remarks that “the impermanence of festivals is a feature, not a flaw.” The festivals strive to have a lasting positive impact, while giving visitors something to look forward to next summer.

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Photos: The Animals in the Living Collections

The majority of my five most recent posts did not have any photos, because the majority were about places I have not actually visited. But I did see the same kinds of animals today at the National Zoo:

Four goats at the National Zoo's Kids' Farm

Goats at the National Zoo

Gorilla at the National Zoo

Gorilla at the National Zoo

Two American bison at the National Zoo

American bison at the National Zoo

Hornbill in the National Zoo's Bird House

Bird (hornbill) at the National Zoo

Barely visible alligator at the National Zoo

Barely visible alligator at the National Zoo

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The Alligators in the Amusement Park

This post is the last in a series of five that I write this summer about negative events involving animals in living collections. I wasn’t sure whether to write about this particular occurrence since I do not consider a theme park and resort an informal learning environment. But the story of Lane Graves, the two-year-old who died after being attacked by alligators at Disney World’s Seven Seas Lagoon in June, has been in the news and in people’s minds, and I would feel remiss leaving it out.  My heart goes out to the memory of Lane and to the Graves family.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, several alligators were killed in an effort to eliminate the danger, and Lane’s father revealed to the media that it was not one, but two, alligators that attacked Lane.

What separates a place like Disney World from the amorphous category of museums and similar sites? Museum and amusement park both have that “muse” root in their names, after all.

In an email/essay from 1995, Robert A. Baron writes:

In the theme park we are offered historyless reenactments of those events and times that define our national and social moral fiber. Unlike museums, theme parks do not attempt to recreate history, but, rather, offer us a perpetual or timeless version of the ever-present past….

In the theme park it is by virtue of the act of imitation that we are drawn into the center of our existence. It is by virtue of our placing ourselves in mock jeopardy, and by passing through the emotions of pity and fear that we undergo our Americo-Aristotelian catharsis….

The museum and the theme park have opposite mandates. That being said, I do not think that museums should compete with mass entertainments, for to succeed in this effort will probably mean that the historical, social, educational or aesthetic mission of the museum will come to be abandoned. On the other hand museums have a lot to learn from theme parks about how to make their prizes accessible to those who venture their way.

On a couple of occasions in my museum work, I joined coworkers in resentment when we received orders from above to “Disnify” our programming. While I understood that Disney has its appeal, I felt that our institutions, as museums, should focus on what museums have to offer, without trying to emulate a whole other category of visitor attraction.

Disney parks are billed as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” There is no reason that museums, which collectively deal with content eliciting the full range of human emotions, should try to be “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

With all that said, there are some things that amusement parks and museums have in common. For example, neither is a place where visitors should be in physical danger. And since both are visitor destinations that may attract people from around the country and world, these institutions must keep in mind that folks might not have any familiarity with the local climate and wildlife. The “mock” in Baron’s description of “mock jeopardy” above is key.

While I did not delve deeply into the website for Disney World, I did not see anything on its front page or the front page of its blog relating to the tragedy, nor did any statement come up when I searched both for the word “alligator.” In fact, the top result on the blog was this 2015 post that I might remove, if I were Disney, in light of recent events.  (While one article mentioned that Disney had put a statement on its blog homepage, I have not been able to find any such post. I checked in late June, in July, and again in August.)

Disney is now making efforts to put up signage specifically warning of the danger of alligators on its property. There have been many reports that Disney was repeatedly warned and questioned (including by employees of Disney and/or companies contracting with Disney) about the precariousness of having guests so close to gators long before the death of Lane Graves. While Lane Graves’s death is already one too many, I hope it is the last alligator-related death at Disney World.

In 1991, my family took a trip south to visit both Disney World (our one and only trip there) and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (our first of a great many trips there). My grandparents had just moved to Hilton Head to live out the rest of their years. They lived in a community where man-made lagoons were everywhere, including in their backyard, and alligators lived in these waters. The youngest of us kids was three years old at the time. I have a newfound appreciation for how nerve-wracking this must have been for my parents.

To end this post on a lighter note, here is a 1991 photo of Goofy with three goofy children. I am the tallest and goofiest.

Three kids (the blogger and her siblings) with Goofy at Disney World in 1991.

Disney World, 1991. Photo by a parent or grandparent.

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The Birds in the Refuge

In some of our country’s first collective excitement of 2016, a gaggle of armed rightwing individuals took up roost in a federal government building at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The people themselves were not from Oregon but rather had flocked to the state from Nevada in this episode of venting about an ongoing grievance against the government in general and the Bureau of Land Management in particular. Though the standoff ended after 40 days, when the last four of the militants surrendered and flew the coop, the ramifications are still developing six months later.

A writer at the Washington Post grappled with what term we should call the nest of militants, and many readers were swift to parrot the writer’s position that the term terrorist should be used (if it walks like a duck…). As the news stories continued to crop up, an increasing number of people began to chat and tweet about the takeover. Some pun-loving people came up with the nicknames Vanilla ISIS and Y’all Quaeda.

Meanwhile, I was wondering what the museum world was to make of the situation. (And apparently I never figured it out, since I am only now getting around to revisiting the rough draft of a blog post that I started writing.)

I won’t go into all the details of the conflict from which this protest arose, since they can be read elsewhere, but the gist of it is that some ranchers in Nevada were continuing to snipe and grouse and crow about the Bureau of Land Management robbin’ them of their land. In this particular event, the militants’ feathers were ruffled by the jail sentences handed down to two ranchers. These two ranchers themselves, however, did not support the takeover of Malheur.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a place primarily for wildlife – for the birds, based on the photos and descriptions I have most frequently seen online. But it is also a visitor destination for humans, with a museum and a visitor center on site, and vast nature to explore and enjoy. (The visitor center and museum have been closed since the occupation began, however, while some portions of the refuge are now open.) I learned from the website that the refuge, under normal circumstances, offers on-site education programs, exhibits, audio tours, wildlife viewing and photography, and hunting and fishing (hunting and fishing are permitted during certain times of year, in limited areas, and within regulations).

The Audubon Society of Portland (Oregon) issued a statement on January 3, 2016 condemning the then-fledgling occupation. “The occupiers have used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify their actions—the conviction of two local ranchers in a case involving arson and poaching on public lands. Notably, neither the local community or the individuals convicted have requested or endorsed the occupation or the assistance of militia groups,” reads the statement. “…We hope for a safe, expeditious end to this armed occupation so that the myriad of local and non-local stakeholders can continue to work together to restore Malheur in ways that are supportive of both the local ecology and the local economy—the occupiers are serving nobody’s interests except their own.”

A post on from January 5, 2016, is full of barbs on behalf of the birding community, demonstrating their fury at an armed insurrection at a wildlife refuge – and arguing that the birders’ skills in observation, stealth, and braving the perils of nature give them an advantage in their quest to #takebackmalheur: “We are watching you and our years of birding photography have made us endlessly  patient and determined.”

In a more somber turn of events, on January 26, 2016, the only death to emerge from the occupation occurred. LaVoy Finicum was killed in a standoff with law enforcement while driving away from the refuge.

The takeover is still having its effects on the community in which the refuge is located. In June 2016, a special recall election against Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, who took a hard line against the insurgents, was seen by Grasty himself “as a referendum on the county’s handling of the crisis.”  The recall efforts lost by a landslide.

In perhaps the ultimate irony in a protest against purported government encroachment on one’s land, the occupiers not only chose to comb through sacred Native American artifacts that were part of the refuge museum’s collection, but also used the Paiute tribe’s burial grounds as their personal restroom. Additionally, they left their mark on the site by leaving behind everything from rotten food to weapons.

So, many months after the fact, I am now again trying to figure out what the museum world is to make of this sequence of events. Certainly, museum exhibits often celebrate the accomplishments of protests from the past, and civil disobedience is meant to be disruptive. Whether I understand or agree with a particular protest’s stance is irrelevant.

But should the museum world really support an occupation of this scale, an occupation that involves closing a taxpayer-funded visitor center to the public for seven months and counting, keeping its staff from working during all that time, defending the incursion with weapons, and literally shitting all over the collection? (Please excuse the foul language.) Seeing such events happen at a museum is hard to swallow. Though I am not a birdwatcher, as a museum-lover, I too can appreciate the birders as they rail against the shutdown of and damage to a museum all about birds.

And while I wouldn’t recommend anyone try to test whether sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, it does stretch the imagination to believe that a group of protesters of a different demographic makeup would have been able to carry on an armed occupation of government property for so long and with only one fatality.

The little stint of armed incursion at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has sung its swan song and ended, but the on-site museum and the local community are still feeling its effects. Though the militants and their ravin’ retain some public support, collective opinion generally sees Finicum’s death as sad and unfortunate, but overall views the group as loons and terrorists. In the midst of a presidential campaign cycle and a seemingly endless string of violent news stories around the nation and world, we hardly hear anything about these occupiers anymore, and perhaps they will be considered a fly-by-night group who will flicker in the public consciousness again the next time they hatch a scheme that makes the news. Whether such an event will happen at a museum remains to be seen.

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