Folks may remember from last summer (a year ago) that I had a bit of a dilemma deciding whether to renew my membership in the Ohio Historical Society. I’d been a member for 10 years, but they’d made a recent change.
Here’s what I’d written before, but the gist of it was that their entry brochure for their main museum, the Ohio History Center (with their map and highlighting of certain displays), suddenly had these “Guidelines for enjoying your visit!”
Notice that last one:
We ask that all our visitors wear shirts and shoes during their time exploring our museum.
I ended the blog post by wondering whether I should renew my membership or not.
What I ended up doing was sending an email to their Executive Director, Burt Logan, telling him exactly what my dilemma was. Over the 10 years of my membership, I’d visiting the museum maybe 2-3 times a year (barefoot of course) and had never really had any problem. (Oh, one time a docent thought I should be wearing shoes, but he walked away and never bothered me again.) But I sure didn’t want to spend my money to renew my membership if I wasn’t going to be allowed entry.
I did make the point that Ohio history is filled with barefooted people, including Johnny Appleseed (whose main base of operations was Ohio). I did also happen to mention that I had a note from my doctor.
The reply I got from him focused on that note:
That said, we also recognize that there may be medical reasons that prevent a visitor from wearing shoes. If you have a letter from a doctor stating you cannot wear shoes because of a health condition, we will certainly make an exception for you, as we would for any other visitor with a doctor-certified medical condition.
But it was still rather annoying to read what he said about shoes (the “that said” above):
We want every visitor to the Center to have an enjoyable experience, and we believe that experience is enhanced for everyone when visitors wear shirts and shoes.
Huh? What do shoes have to do in the least about having “an enjoyable experience”? (Except certainly for me, for which they would detract from the same.) It’s like when it comes to bare feet people just turn off their brains and make any old assumption that comes to mind.
Anyways, I decided to renew. It really annoyed me that, as the Ohio Historical Society they were, in a very real sense, rejecting the actual history of Ohio. Many of the people who built Ohio did so barefoot. And they were saying that building Ohio while barefoot may have been acceptable, but actually looking back at that while barefoot detracts from the history! That is simply ahistorical.
This is similar to the experience I had at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL, where bare feet also were not welcome. Think about it. Lincoln, as a boy, would not have been welcome in his own museum.
So, this year it was time to renew again, and I had the dilemma again. Not because I didn’t think they’d let me in, but because the rejection of history and lack of acceptance of a slightly different cultural mindset.
In the end, I just didn’t feel like fighting any battle over it. So a few weeks ago I sent in my renewal without comment.
This past Saturday I was there again. I’ve been there quite a few times over the past year (more than my usual 2-3). Yeah, their brochure still had those “Guidelines”, but nobody said a negative word to me. OK, that’s great. (I did have one patron curiously ask me why I was barefoot, but it did not seem to stop her from having an “enhanced” experience.)
I was even happier to see their new brochure (new exhibits, new brochure), and its “Tips for your visit!”
Yay! They are actual tips, not admonitions like the old guidelines. And nothing about shoes.
I was there on Saturday for a very special event. Their curator of Archeology, Brad Lepper, was giving a special tour to highlight his “Top Ten Masterpieces of the Hopewell Culture”. We’ve seen Brad before. Here he is from the summer of 2013 (about the time I had my first renewal dilemma) at The World Celebration at the Great Circle.
Anyways, the museum tour of his top ten masterpieces was absolutely marvelous. Their exhibit is a very nice exhibit, but what Brad did was bring to life what would otherwise just be objects sitting in trays. (Yes, they are regularly more than that, but what Brad did was help us really appreciate them for what they were.) He added background and stories. It was an utterly fascinating tour. You can see his list on his own blog, in Top Ten Masterpieces of the Hopewell Culture Revealed. It’s a nice blog entry, but the in-person tour was way better.
But then, after the tour, on my way out, in fact after I’d left the building, a security guard stopped me to talk to me. He tried to be very polite and deferential (saying I seemed to be a very nice fellow and I hadn’t caused any trouble at all, but he asked/told me that next time I visited wouldn’t I please wear shoes?
My answer: “No.”
He did the usual song-and-dance about safety. (What? No “the experience is enhanced when everyone wears shoes”?) I told him that Burt Logan had given me permission. I asked him if there was a rule, and he just returned to “safety”. To me it was clear that there was not a rule and he was more-or-less just doing this on his own. Of course you have to wear shoes. There was also discussion about how he’d have to bring it up to his supervisor, and how he’d never heard about the permission from Burt Logan. (That, I guess, had never percolated down to the guards.) Fortunately, I had brought a copy of the email with me (“Your papers, please!”) so I could show it to him. (Oddly enough, he didn’t ask to see the doctor’s note referenced in the email.)
In the end, well, that was the end. I got in my car and left. I don’t think it’s even worth emailing Burt Logan about. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Oh, and waiting for me when I got home? In Saturday’s mail, my new membership card! Synchronicity.
The management of the Ohio Historical Society has been trying to “sex” things up. In fact, they even changed the name. It’s now “The Ohio History Connection”! (Weird, and obviously a product of a marketing focus group, right?) And their new membership card calls us “Time Travelers”.
That’s what I am, a time traveler. When I’m barefoot I’ve traveled to the past, when bare feet were perfectly acceptable. And I’m traveling to the future, when they will be acceptable again.
We’re all time travelers.