Gun Violence, a Brief Cultural History is an exhibit on display at the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum that focuses on the history and culture surrounding gun violence in the U.S.during the 21st century, said David Phillips, the Interim Director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.
Like any social issue, gun violence has a cultural history behind it. Phillips said gun violence directly impacts university campuses across the country and it is important that UNM has an open dialogue surrounding gun violence.
“If we don't (do) something about this, we would be sticking our heads in the sand. (The Maxwell Museum) is the logical place to have this exhibit and conversation,” Philips said.
Phillips partnered with the Maxwell Curator of Exhibits, Devorah Romanek, to create this exhibit. According to Romanek this exhibit is part of her ongoing project called “Current Issues in Anthropology.” This series focuses on a variety of current anthropological issues that impact visitors in their day to day lives, Romanek said.
“David and I wanted to show that gun violence has been present in the world for a long time and let other people speak — by using quotations,” Romanek said. “The focus was on the United States, because David and I thought that would be most relevant, but examples were pulled from elsewhere in the world as well.”
Part of “Gun Violence, a Brief Cultural History” exhibit in the Maxwell Museum, children’s shoes hang in a row.
Phillips said the Maxwell Museum collaborates with students on most exhibits. The museum gives students an opportunity to work on projects and gain experience students can put on their resume.
Donald Roberts is a senior studying architecture and partnered with Romanek and Phillips on this exhibit. Roberts said he worked at the museum and was asked to help create it. Roberts said that he wants visitors to realize that gun violence is an issue that needs to be solved and that becoming desensitized is not the answer.
One of the pieces displayed at the exhibit is a red and white neon sign. The sign reads “116,255” in white, fixed on a blood red background. Phillips said this is the number of Americans shot every year.
Another display showed a row of uniform white ceramic children’s shoes hung from ribbon laces. According to Romanek, this piece was made by Ann Lewis and was part of installation titled “This is Who We Are.” The shoes represent the 8.8 children killed by guns every day in the United States.
Phillips said the exhibit spans both time and space allowing visitors to see gun violence’s cultural history. One of the most interesting things is that gun violence varies from country to country, he said.
“This is a sign that human being(s) are not locked into a particular pattern when it comes to gun violence, which means there is room for variation and change. We are not in a cycle that we cannot escape,” Phillips said.
The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Megan Holmen is a freelance news and culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_holmen.