Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revisiting Metropolis

This blog includes a few thoughts related to the preceding entry.

When you get outside of suburban areas, towns seem compelled to identify themselves by some trademark. International Falls, Minn., is battling to retain the legal rights to market itself as the “icebox of the nation.” I once worked in a small town that could come up with nothing better than the “land of 57 hills” or something like that.

While reflecting upon the otherwise forgettable southern Illinois town of Metropolis -- which deemed itself worthy of erecting a Superman statue and collecting Superman memorabilia under the guise of being the "home" of Superman -- I realized that 99 percent of the museums and city slogans you come across are warm and fuzzy. Nobody dubs their city “the armpit of Minnesota.” Herman, Minn., is famous for its effort several years ago to market the disproportionate number of eligible bachelors in its boring-ass farming community, and obtained a lot of national recognition for it. But you’d never see the city dub itself “land of undersexed farmers.”

And what are the chances of visiting a museum dedicated to the history of domestic terrorism? I’d happily spend a few hours in a sleepy little town learning more about the dementia of Jeff Dahmer, Charles Manson and the Unabomber. I’m not sure I want to see the contents of Dahmer’s refrigerator on display in a museum, but artifacts from the crime sprees would be as interesting as seeing Fonzie’s leather jacket on display at the Smithsonian, I am sure. I'm also certain that there'll be no Dahmer museum in Stinktown any time soon.

A museum isn't, by definition, a celebration of someone or something. There's a reason why there are war memorials and a Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. We have no problem with cable channels producing documentaries about tragic events and serial killers or authors compiling books about the same subjects, but why not interactive displays to learn about these same subjects?

I know, rubes won't flock to Stinktown to visit a Dahmer museum the same way they'll flock to see a bronze statue of the Fonz, anticipated to debut by Labor Day. That's a shame.

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