Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland I turned a corner in the local history museum in the fishing village of Heimaey and saw this poster of Led Zeppelin. I walked a little further and saw Muhammad Ali, Farah Fawcett and a beer bottle or two. Definitely things I had never seen in a local history museum before, so I made a special effort to discover what I was looking at. Literally, it stopped me in my tracks because I had never seen a period room installation like this:
Byggdasafn Folk Museum, has much amazing history to tell. The story of why it's called the Westman Islands (Irish slaves escaping from their Norse captors); the invasion of Algerian pirates from the Barbery Coast; the conversion and immigration of hundreds of Mormons; and last but not least, the 1973 volcano eruption that covered the island in volcanic ash. So why Led Zeppelin?
I might keep thinking of it because it's a reminder of how reluctant many museums are to address issues of class and economics. The guys in the fishworkers dorm were working class, and not all local. The museum treated them equally. Their story was integrated into the entire story of the community, not segregated into a separate exhibit about working people. The museum just didn't tell the story of founding fathers and mothers, without any mention of hired hands, factory workers, maids or servants. Many museums have made great strides in this direction, but few do such a good job at telling an integrated story; telling the story of workers as one part of a whole community story.
And for an entirely different take on working, if you're in Western Massachusetts, check out MassMOCA's exhibit The Workers, where work by more than 40 contemporary artists encourages thought, debate, and sometimes confusion about work in today's global economy.