My wife points out a bizarre instance of political correctness leading to the whitewashing of a museum exhibit on prisoners in the medieval world. Some students at Grand Valley State University had built a replica of a rack which was going to be displayed along with a mural depicting torture and maltreatment of prisoners, which would have been commonly used for political prisoners (think Tower of London).
But In Light of Recent Events(TM), the Public Museum of Grand Rapids has decided to literally whitewash over the mural and remove the rack. According to museum curator Paula Gangopadhyay,
Dungeons were part and parcel of medieval castles. We will indeed have information, vignettes and text. There might be mention that prisoners were treated poorly, but there will not be any graphic display.
And people who should know better apparently agree with this nonsense. Here’s Grand Valley State University engineering professor Wendy Reffeor offering as incoherent an explanation as anything I could think of,
The timing would have been horrendous . .
It was merely a historical fact. At the current time, it’s much more than historical fact, and it would be inappropriate.
Ah, yes. When faced with social problems, the obvious thing to do is remove any historical references to it. I imagine, for example, that if the display were about technological progress over the last 50 years that Reffeor would find the timing to be “horrendous” if it included digital cameras which were, after all, used to humiliate Iraqi prisoners.
All of a sudden, medieval torture isn’t such old news. Cami Reister, Grand Rapids Press, May 15, 2004.