What Story Is the Mob Museum Informing Inside and Outside its Walls?

Museums don’t simply house the past. They inform us stories. Stories that shape our understanding of the yellowing photos, old documents, and antique items that they consist of. When we check out a museum, we’re not simply experiencing pure facts; we’re strolling into a rhetorical area where we’re convinced to see things in a particular light.

One of the important things that makes museums and other locations such effective forms of remembering is that we, as Americans, find them naturally credible. As historians Roy Rozenzweig and David Thelen talked about in their book The Presence of the Past, Americans saw museums as the most trustworthy source of details about the past– more credible even than history textbooks and, ahem, college teachers.

In my University Online forum lecture, I’ll illustrate how locations end up being convincing by going over the example of our own National Museum of The mob and Police— better called the Mob Museum. As a scholar of rhetorical studies, I take a look at how individuals use language persuasively in public. We employ rhetoric at any time we utilize signs– words, images, architecture, and so on– to aim to influence a group of individuals to act or to alter their attitude or identity. Wish to get elected to the school board? Usage rhetoric. Need your neighbors to keep their barking pet dog inside? Use rhetoric.

The Mob Museum can also be considered a response to a set of issues that’s distinct to Las Vegas: How do we keep travelers gathering to the destinations of our valley while also supplying a sense of pride and cultural resources for the citizens? My talk will show how the museum’s design, shows, language, and imagery address what I call “rhetorical issues” provided by the museum’s distinct place in a downtown redevelopment area on the planet’s tourist capital.

For example, an essential issue that fans, creators, and promoters of the Mob Museum faced was the best ways to build an “genuine” and engaging narrative about the Mob without either glorifying the Mob or raising concern that the Mob was still active in Las Vegas. While a number of the museum’s displays address this problem, one of my favorite examples is the space on the first flooring devoted to the “Memories of the Mob.” This little exhibition includes a gallery of antique household pictures of weddings, children, and other images emphasizing mobsters’ functions as “family men.”

When I initially went to the museum, the exhibit struck me as out of place, as it follows the flooring focused on law enforcement’s efforts to lower the Mob. Yet, when I began to consider it in the context of the broader narrative– that the Mob is a thing of the Las Vegas past– I started to see its rhetorical function: to make it appear that the Mob exists just in black-and-white family photos. Made males not live to roam our streets; they appear only in these dusty artifacts. Yet, somebody had to unpack the pictures from the attic, so we understand that the descendants of these families reside on. A display utilizing artifacts to show how Mobsters existed as individuals just in the previous recommend that the heirs to these customs have actually in some way vanished. We leave the museum feeling safe and separate from the dangers presented there.

I became interested in the Mob Museum for a few factors. First, as a local living near downtown, I’ve ended up being invested in the numerous modifications taking place around my neighborhood. While I clearly gain from much of the improvements that downtown redevelopment brings, I’m also cognizant of the issues of gentrification, consisting of greater rent and displaced next-door neighbors. The museum was a focal point of these redevelopment efforts, and I wanted to know how its production was influenced by that argument.

Second, as a UNLV professor, I teach a course called “Rhetoric and Public Memory,” where trainees are required to visit and compose an analysis of the museum. I quickly found that my students had strong viewpoints about the purpose of the museum. When we discuss their go to in class, there’s typically a pretty even split in between trainees who think that the museum glorifies the Mob and those who believe that it condemns the Mob. I questioned what, specifically, about the museum welcomed such varied analyses.

Third, as someone who investigates how we utilize rhetoric to keep in mind the past, I wanted to investigate exactly how memory operates in a young city that’s run by a traveler economy. How does the Mob Museum work both as a location to save historical details and as a tourist destination? I’m interested in how my neighborhood works, and studying the Mob Museum seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out more about that.

Former Mayor Oscar Goodman was a huge booster of the Mob Museum. While talking up the museum in 2009, Goodman was reported to have quipped to a regional blogger, “no one’s going to come to downtown Las Vegas to take a look at paintings. Exactly what will they take a look at? They’ll look at something that’s really embedded in history, that makes us distinct and distinct from any other city, that has a historic nexus, [like] a keystone because of the Kefauver hearings … And I think it’s a natural.”

Although the museum may appear like a “natural,” someone needed to promote it and build it. Someone (or, more precisely, a bunch of someones) formed its stories. I want individuals who encounter those stories about the past to think critically about the stories they’re being told.

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