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Doctoral student invited to preview new Smithsonian museum

Posted October 14, 2016
By Desirae Gostlin, first-year Master of Mass Communications student

Porchia Moore considers herself somewhat of a cross pollinator in the cultural heritage arena. Her passion is museum work and curation, but she leans heavily on her knowledge gained in pursuit of her doctoral degree at USC's School of Library and Information Science and the McKissick Museum Management program.

Moore plays an active role in cultural heritage preservation as a social media influencer and regular contributor to The Incluseum, a Seattle-based project that "advances new ways of being a museum." Moore actively updates Visitors of Color, her tumblr project, co-created with another museum activist, Nikhil Trivedi. The project is a counternarrative project which interviews visitors in an attempt to explore reasons why attendance by visitors of colors in this country is less than 10 percent.

People of color account for only nine percent of annual museum traffic. Moore believes that many factors contribute to the low rates of participation. Cost of attendance is one barrier to attendance. In addition, most minority groups do not see themselves represented in current museum exhibits because as much as 95 percent of permanent exhibits are European or white-centric, according to Moore.

Moore said many museums were places of legalized segregation and this directly impacts the modern day museum-going habits of African Americans.

“African Americans needed to be influenced by an adult or caregiver to go to museums as a cultural practice as a chosen leisure time activity,” she said. "Because there is a history of African Americans being excluded from museum going, the trend has carried over into the current day."

Because of her groundbreaking work in the field of museum research, Moore was invited to attend a preview of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Along with all the major media outlets, Moore was invited to preview the museum 10 days before its official opening.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the largest museums on the National Mall. Designed to be toured from bottom to top beginning with the origins of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its diffusion, the museum chronologically tells the story of enslaved Africans forced bondage migration and the subsequent accomplishments the African American community has made to the United States.

South Carolinians would be especially served well to visit the museum. Many artifacts and stories from the Palmetto State litter the museum’s collection, slave dwelling and a vigorous exploration of the Lowcountry rice trade. Tiny coastal vacation destination Sullivan’s Island makes an appearance in the museum for its dark past in the slave trade. Approximately 50-60 percent of African Americans who have been able to trace their entrance into this country via the pest houses (place where slave ships unloaded the enslaved and identified who was alive and who was dead in order to then ship them off to the slave block) before being shipped to plantations across the country to origins in America, started at Sullivan’s Island.

Since its opening, the museum has been an unprecedented success. Tickets are effectively sold out until February of 2017. 

“Once people visit this museum and leave they will have to come back to their library and utilize their local librarian. There is no way they will not want to know more about some artifact, person, time or idea. Google simply will not do,” Moore said.

Desirae Gostlin

Desirae Gostlin

Desirae Gostlin is a first-year Master of Mass Communication student. Her reporting has been featured in The Waterfront and Lexington Life Magazine among others.

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