Thursday, May 03, 2007

May 3, 2007
Working hard on finishing up the Silver City Shootout copy for the June issue. Also working on scripts for the next True West Moments, and the Hugh O'Brian painting still looms and needs to be finished this weekend.

Meanwhile, I got my lip in the wringer, over comments I made in last Sunday's Arizona Republic. I usually knock out these mini-editorials in about ten minutes and I needed a punchline, made a bad joke, and shades of the Imus Virus, I received the smackdown. Here's the first two responses:

“Hey Bob...I'm one of those ‘cadavers’ you mentioned in your Plugged In blurb yesterday! We might be one of the best kept secrets in town, but we have a lot of alive, active members and volunteers at PMOH. Why don't you consider becoming a member and a volunteer, too? Maybe you can help bring in some of the folks who should see it. We get a lot of out-of-town visitors, and they appreciate us. That was really a nasty, uncalled for dig! Don't make remarks like that when you don't know anything about us."

—Darlys zumBrunnen, a still living member and volunteer of PMOH!

"As another museum and history buff, I appreciate your mention of the Phoenix Museum of History, one of the best kept secrets in Phoenix, in the Sunday paper. And, as one of the retiree volunteers whom you've christened 'cadaver', I can only say we do our best - with the support of our walkers and hearing aids and without much support from businesses and foundations - to supplement the skeleton staff (no pun intended) in order to keep the doors open.

"History, with the exception of your magazine of course, isn't sexy or controversial enough, it sems, to glean much local support.

"They say there's no such thing as bad publicity as long as you spell the names right; so I thank you. Any other mention or help you can give us would be much appreciated by this cadaver."
—Jeanine Starrett

The Actual Plugged In Commentary
As one who loves museums, I was bummed to read that the Mesa Museum may close because of politics and lack of funding. If you're like me you may have thought, "Mesa actually has a museum?" I'm only half joking, but even those of us who love museums sometimes don't know about them, until it's too late. Last weekend my family attended the Body Worlds III Show at the Phoenix Science Museum and the place was mobbed. Of course it didn't hurt that they used actual cadavers, which gave everything a creepy realism which I personally enjoy. Afterwards we walked out into the sun to see, lo and behold, The Phoenix Museum of History, right next door, which I had never heard of. We went in and took a look, but the place was sadly empty. I think they need some cadavers, besides the ones who work there.

End of commentary and beginning of remorseful blabbing: I felt bad about the cadaver joke and apologized to three volunteers who were offended. The actual point I was making is, how do we learn from the Body Worlds phenom? The place was slammed with people of all ages when I was there and I truly wish that every museum could learn from this and be just as packed. And so, in order to talk about that I had to make a joke and, unfortunately, it came down to what I wrote. By the way, I wanted the title to be "Working Stiffs Work," which is the real lesson from the phenom if you ask me.

My managing editor, Meghan Saar and I just had a short meeting to discuss this dynamic. What is the main thing to be learned? Would the exhibit be mobbed if the bodies were models, and not cadavers? I don't think so. There is a perverse curiosity at work here. Either way it's genius.

So I apologized to the miffed employees and assured them I was trying to draw attention to their plight with a bad joke (a defense that sounds very Imus-like I must say). Yesterday, I received this email:

"Hi Bob, thank you for your apologies to some of our volunteers at PMOH. Just so this message doesn't get confusing let me introduce myself. I am president of the Board of Directors of the Phoenix Museum of History and also Curator of the Wells Fargo History Museum. Did you know Wells Fargo had a museum downtown? I'm sure you must Jana Boomersbach did an article in your magazine a few years ago about the Wells Fargo Museum.

"Sadly it takes something like your comments to get in print. We have been striving over the last several years to get PMOH to the point where we can start revamping and building new exhibits and we are at that point now. The current and future of museums is the 'Experience' factor, which also seems to cost more then static exhibits. How do you incorporate the "Experiential Experience" in history? I'm sure you have the opportunity to see many museums throughout the west. We would welcome your constructive criticism and ideas on how we can make the experience at PMOH more engaging. Let me know if you would like to get involved.

Connie J. Whalen
Curator, AVP
Wells Fargo History Museum
145 W. Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ

So I am going to join their museum. And so, they will have another cadaver aboard. Ha.

"All's well, that ends well."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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