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Futurist Friday: Building the Future By Understanding the Past

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
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We know we don’t know what the future will be. We can deal with that–that’s what strategic foresight is for.

Far more corrosive is the misconception that we do know the past.

In fact, the past and the future are mirror images: the farther we travel through time in either direction, forward or back,  the less certain we are of what did or will occur.  And any effort to build a better future has to be grounded in an accurate understanding of history.

For example, to build a better future of justice and rehabilitation we need to understand how the current demographics of incarceration in the US are a product of our history of slavery and racial oppression. 

Can museums help prime this civic conversation about justice? Yes, and here’s one example: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration–a museum and memorial slated to open in Montgomery Alabama in 2017. The Equal Justice Initiative, which is designing and funding the new museum, says it will “connect the history of racial inequality with contemporary issues of mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and police violence.”” 

Your Futurist Friday assignment, watch this video, which previews how the memorial will embody the history of racially motivated lynchings in the US, a piece of history largely omitted or underplayed in dominant narratives of the past.

This design is powerful in so many ways, but what I like best is the quiet and powerful call to action: a challenge for counties in which lynchings took place to step up and reclaim their own histories, taking their memorial columns from this central site and bring them home.

And here’s a question for your consideration: what “hidden histories” in your country, state, city or neighborhood need to be brought into the light before healing in the present can begin?

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