fall 2013 cover

This article explores the connection between the historic freakshows of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and modern museums.

Additionally, the article offers a short history of dime museums as predecessors to today’s museum.

Most museums and exhibits still try to entertain the masses, but with an emphasis on education; there are some, however, that still adhere to the freakshow or dime museum model.

This culminates in a discussion of human rights, especially disability activism, and the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on museums and historic sites.

The author discuses options and opportunities for museums to offer inclusive programs to visitors.

Key Takeaway Messages:

  • The interesting history of Dime Museums and Freakshows still impact museums today.
  • Disability rights and activism were influenced to some degree by the degrading historical treatment of those who were different.

Questions for Readers:

  1. Have museums made it past the Dime Museum or Freakshow model of the past?
  2. Have you seen museums that still adhere to those models, and how do you react to them?
  3. How can museums continue to combat the ideas of the public that museums are places for shock and awe rather than education?
  4. Is there an intersection of shock and education that we can embrace?

Additional Information:

Behold! The Heartbreaking, Hair-Raising Tale Of Freak Show Star Julia Pastrana, Mexico’s Monkey Woman