In considering a reflective blog on what strikes me most about the Guantanamo Public Memory Project, my attention immediately focuses on recognizing the emotional connection that many people share regarding the United States government and U.S. presence in Guantánamo Bay. Before being introduced to this thought-provoking exhibit, I had no previous knowledge of the racial tensions, prison conditions, or imperialistic policies associated with the base. This disconnect from the present has revealed the negativity surrounding this issue and I am concerned about the exhibit’s ability to maintain an objective tone within the collective narrative.
As public historians we need to remember that the base has significantly played a role in United States history for centuries and continues to have strategic value. The narrative and visuals within the project’s panels must avoid the temptations of being caught up in the politically-charged whirlwinds surrounding the War on Terror or incidents of torture. This traveling exhibit can be very effective without relying on controversy and mysterious cover-ups. This project can stimulate discussion and generate insightful ideas without calling for protest or some type of mass public reaction to the presumed history of atrocities occurring at the base. We need to be careful not to exaggerate for effect but strive to inform constructively through representing Guantánamo objectively and not allowing the present to dictate the direction or the voice of the exhibit. These variables and important elements are merely part of a greater story and should be conveyed with equal weight along with other issues from other eras.
The Guantánamo Public Memory Project is not a crusade meant to mobilize the public through inducing moralism but rather to educate the international stakeholders through an in-depth examination, while encouraging them to use logical reasoning in formulating their thoughts about the future. This exhibit should present the history of Guantánamo in a manner that aims for holistic representation but does not fall victim to agendas of the human rights activists aiming for social justice or the instigators of controversies regarding the demonization of American imperial objectives. This project has the opportunity to inspire and motivate an international audience while creating both practical and imaginative ideas for our nation’s involvement in Guantánamo. I am excited to be a part of this coalition of public historians and am very optimistic that we can present such relevant stories in a style that is engaging, thought provoking, and objective.
Posted by Jeremy L. Wells – Public History student at Arizona State University
Arizona State University is participating in the Guantánamo Public Memory Project‘s National Dialogue and Traveling Exhibit. Opening at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life Windows Gallery in December 2012 and traveling to 9 sites (and counting) across the country through at least 2014, the exhibit will explore GTMO’s history from US occupation in 1898 to today’s debates and visions for its future. The exhibit is being developed through a unique collaboration among a growing number of universities as a dialogue among their students, communities, and people with first-hand experience at GTMO