94. Jazz Dottin Guides Viewers Through Massachusetts’s Buried Black History

Welcome to Museum Archipelago in Your Inbox, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Museum Archipelago, your audio guide to the rocky landscape of museums, is hosted by me, Ian Elsner.

The deliberate exclusion of Black history and the history of slavery in the Amerian South has been slow to reverse. But Jazz Dottin, creator and host of the Black Gems Unearthed YouTube channel says it can be just as slow in New England. Each video features Dottin somewhere in her home state of Massachusetts, often in front of a plaque or historical marker, presenting what’s missing, excluded, or downplayed.

The history discussed on Black Gems Unearthed has been left out by conventional museums, which are among the most trustworthy institutions in modern American life according to the American Alliance of Museums. This trust may have more to do with power than truth-telling — and today, there are many different ways to build trust with an audience online. Shows like Dottin’s might point to where our new relationship with the authoritative voice is heading.

In this episode, Dottin describes how working as tour guide and creating travel itineraries influences her work today, how she came up with the idea for Black Gems Unearthed, and what the future holds.

“If I see plaques, I have to stop and read them. But with Black history, there's not as many plaques, if any at all.” - Jazz Dottin

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Gallery Continues ⏭️

Dottin often presents in front of a plaque or historical marker in Massachusetts. In episode 42, we discuss the often difficult process of erecting similar historical markers in the American South. Author and historian Freddi Williams Evans and activist Luther Gray describe their efforts to use official channels to erect historical markers covering the overlapping international and domestic slave trades in in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“And we're still just touching the tip of the iceberg of this history.” - Luther Gray

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Archipelago at the Movies🍿Don't Eat The Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983)

This film is a journey. It's the journey of Cookie Monster, who learns that as much as he might want to eat the pantings, statues, and mummies in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he now understands how important it is not to devour them. 

On this episode of Archipelago at the Movies🍿, we answer the question posed to Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus, "where does today meet yesterday?", as we discuss 1983's Don't Eat The Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Today me learn big lesson about museum etiquette.” - Cookie Monster

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