The visitor’s experience
So, when visiting an historical site with a slave past, what is it that you want to see represented? Do you want to see the domestic slaves working in the house with field slaves out on the grounds? Do you want to see slave interactions between other slaves and their white owners? Do you want to see what the living conditions are like? Or do you want an exhibit that shows how the transatlantic slave trade made the slave population in that area what it was at the time?
What can I possibly do to make your experience with the uncomfortable fact of slavery better? Would it be better if I focused on who the slave was as a person? Or do you want a total overview?
I ask these questions because I am preparing to create a presentation about slave interpretation for a conference next year that I am hoping to present at. I want to meet the expectations of the visitor but I also want them to leave with something memorable for the good, and not just that slaves had it bad. I am not sure how to word that or even make it work because you can’t change a person’s perception. Example: Saturday as I am working in the garden, an older white gentlemen comes up to me and the other African American interpreter and asks us what we’re cooking? No fire is lit, we aren’t in the kitchen, she’s sewing and I’m hacking up weeds with a hoe and we get asked what we’re cooking? So glad sir that you know that the cooking on the plantation would have been done by a slave but, please before you make any statements, ask about what we’re doing right now and then ask us about our other responsibilities.
My state of shock worked itself off in the garden but it did get me to think about how we can change the visitor experience without infringing on their rights to think what they like. I just hope that I can make an impact on what people think when they think about the enslaved. So what do you want to see? Post your thoughts and suggestions.