This essay looks at the content of the Tenement Museum’s newest exhibit, the museum as an employer, and the position of the museum in a rapidly changing neighborhood in Manhattan. The museum’s new tour at their newest exhibition space in 103 Orchard Street–Under One Roof–revealed some of the ironies of the Tenement Museum’s displays of labor’s recent pasts. Throughout the 2000s, museum educators mounted unionization campaigns for better wages, job security, and safer working conditions. Educators were also concerned with the new building’s development, as tenants of 103 Orchard Street had to move out to make room for historical interpretation. But the 2008 unionization campaign ended abruptly. The Tenement Museum’s upper management effectively discouraged educators from signing their union cards. The author asks in the essay, “Does recounting the lived experiences of working-class families justify the museum’s ongoing gentrification of its own neighborhood? And further, what about the museum educators and their labor rights as they convey these stories to visitors?” New York’s museum world has undergone several transformations since the 2008 unionization drive. In April 2019, the frontline museum workers of the Tenement Museum successfully won their union bids, and this essay studies some of the contexts and implications for the public humanities, more broadly.
Review Article| March 01 2020
Unraveling “Under One Roof”: The Tenement Museum and Its Discontents
Labor (2020) 17 (1): 75–90.
Minju Bae; Unraveling “Under One Roof”: The Tenement Museum and Its Discontents. Labor 1 March 2020; 17 (1): 75–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7962804
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