Futurist Friday: Alt History & Alt Futures

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Ever wonder how the present would be different, if some some key event in our past had torqued just enough to propel us into a different sector of the Cone of Plausibility? Exploring such scenarios is the realm of “alternative history.” Some alt-history is fanciful (most steampunk fiction, for example), some constitute thoughtful, scholarly exploration of our timeline. (For example, how would WWII have turned out if the Allies had not launched a campaign in North Africa?) 

Alt-history, like futurist scenarios, doesn’t have to be textual. Here is a map of an alt-Africa , by Nikolaj Cyon, envisioning a timeline in which Europe did not colonized that continent

Map from BigThink post by Frank Jacobs

Cyon’s alternate timeline diverges from our history in the mid-1300s, when (in his universe) some tweak in the genome of Yersinia pestis made the Black Death even more deadly than it really was. What would have happened if the Muslim Empire overran a depopulated Europe? How would culture have flourished in Africa, absent the Western slave trade? 

Your Futurist Friday assignment: read this post by Frank Jacobs about Cyon’s map and the logic underlying his conclusions. Then (if you work in a museum) stroll through your galleries, or the storage rooms, and think about how they (or their counterparts) would look different in Cyon’s universe. Whose portraits would hang in your halls? What artifacts would represent “primitive” cultures? Who’s point of view would drive the interpretation? I’d love to hear what you come up with, in the comment section below, or on the corresponding post on the CFM Facebook page. Enjoy!

Skip over related stories to continue reading article

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum Magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership

Comments

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *