Tag Archives: Original

Colonial Williamsburg’s Ads Are No Longer Creepy

Last year Colonial Williamsburg released new television commercials which we called creepy, as you can see here. This year, evidently emboldened by the previous year’s successful marketing campaign, they have released two new commercials. Fortunately 2014’s crop of ads are much more direct, easily understandable, and not creepy at all.

In fact, they’ve jumped from creepy to downright frightening. If these commercials are any indication, they believe that history isn’t interesting, but if you like violence, sadism, masochism, public shaming, and human rights violations, than Colonial Williamsburg is the place for you.

While we at the American Hysterical Society believe strongly in the right for all museums to make a buck so they can continue to operate, please won’t you join us in not visiting Williamsburg this year and  help us end these senseless and cruel commercials.

Remember, the history you save could be your own.

Your Image Doesn’t Match Your Image, or Random Thoughts We Have While Browsing Catalogues

Today we wouldn’t let a smoker’s unwashed fingers near archival collections, much less those fingers AND a lit cigarette. So it makes perfect sense that Hollinger Metal Edge (the “Quality Leader In Archival Products”) chose this picture of their founder William Hollinger:

I only use acid-free rolling papers.

Based solely on their visuals, one would have to question their position as “quality leader.” We would think another picture might be better, but perhaps it’s the only image they have of him. Perhaps those aren’t archivally sensitive materials on the desk. Perhaps he thought nicotine was a preservative.

Despite the contrasts, the company will probably stick with this picture. They can’t snap a new one because Hollinger is dead. Dead and buried in a lignin-free coffin.


book12Exciting, adj. A self-inflicted description used often, if not accurately, by museums to describe their programs.



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book12Patina, n. The first (and often last) feature an antiques collector learns to identify. Knowledge of patinas allows the collector to assess the age, authenticity, or restoration history of any piece and relieves him or her of the burden of having to know anything else.

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book12Attendance, n. The published sum of all museum visitors for a given event or time period. This number has no relation to reality.

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Popular Culture

book12Popular Culture, n. Of little or no interest to historians until such time as it has fallen out of fashion, after which they build their careers on it.

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History’s Most Influential History Book

Since our previous history-themed game was such a success, we at the Hysterical Society thought we would try another one. This time to identify history’s most influential history book.

Yes, there are a lot of possibilities.

To help narrow things down a bit the rules, which we’ve just made up, state the book:

  • Must be written using a mix of primary and secondary sources and comparative or contextual methods (which is why books of collected and altered oral histories like The Bible and The Iliad are right out).
  • Is to be judged by its influence, not it’s accuracy.
  • National influence is good, international is better.
  • Should shape and/or capture the views of both the academy and the general public.
  • May approach prehistory and history through any field – including, but not limited to, archeology, anthropology, material culture, art history, music history, or any other recognized flavor of history.

Please leave your nominee(s) in the comments section. So…

What Is History’s

Most Influential History Book?


Warning: Below Is Our Nominee. Feel Free To Skip Over This Until After You’ve Answered.

(ok, so it’s not in the comments. It’s our site, we can do what we want)




We would like to nominate a history-related book which has inspired documentaries, movies, television shows, music, video games, and other books, as well as brought the author over 46 years of continued international attention. It’s motivated millions of non-specialists around the world to read classic texts or ponder ancient art and architecture. Amazon and other review sites have called it a “classic,” “required reading,” “clever,” “stimulating,” and “entertaining.”(1)

We refer, of course, to:

Click image for more.

That’s right, the book that says earlier humans were too dumb to make anything more complex than a mess, so extraterrestrials had to show us how to do everything. While its claims may range from the dubious to the spurious, the book has been translated into over 30 languages and has inspired dozens of works of art, history, science, and entertainment, including the Battlestar Galactica franchise, the Stargate franchise, Ancient Aliens, the 2012 film Prometheus, two documentaries, several follow-ups, a rebuttal, at least one scientist’s support,  and a long-ish Wikipedia page.

Sure it’s flawed and not a little ridiculous, but it’s gotten more people to engage with the past in more ways than any other book we can think of.


1. The same sites have also called it “rubbish,” “pop history,” “fringe history,” “dangerous,” “pseudoscience,” and “pseudoarcheology.”

A Realistic Deaccession Discussion

Broadly speaking, most deaccession controversies (the ones where a museum announces it’s selling collections to pay for non-collections things) go like this:

1. The museum realizes it is going or is broke. In lieu of finding new revenues it decides to sell collections.

2. The museum publicly announces it’s deaccession plans, shocking and angering the rest of the field (but usually no one else).

3. The field demands that those responsible for the financial failures and/or the deaccession proposal be brought forth and punished.

4. The American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, or the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries write strongly-worded letters or speeches admonishing the offending museum not to do it. They write the same thing each time, just changing the proper nouns.

There is no set #5, as the outcome can vary – the museum might halt the deaccession altogether, a donor might generously meet the shortfall (for this year anyway), or they might go ahead and sell, the field be damned. Except in rare instances mentioned below, in no way is the outcome based on anything other than what is financially beneficial for the museum. As we’ve said before, hope and strongly-worded letters are really all the museum field has in these situations.

But lately there has been a call for what amounts to a new #4 on our list. Some museum professionals are clamoring for the AAM, et al, to push and the Federal government to pass national laws protecting collections and punishing offending museums. This sounds like a fine idea.

The problem is it’s a dumb idea.

There are already laws in place to protect collections. They are created and governed by each state because museum collections are held in public trust for the residents of whichever state the museum is registered in. Idealistically we like to say we hold these collections for all of humanity, but legally we’re only beholden to our home state. While the strength and effectiveness of each state’s law is debatable, they are all overseen by each state’s attorney general, who is vested with the legal power to stop deaccessions if warranted. So there is a process already ready.

With that in mind, we here at the American Hysterical Society would like to offer a new, more utilitarian approach to deaccession governance. One that would give the AAM, and their like, real teeth.

As opposed to what they have now.

As opposed to what they have now.

Since the AAM (or the AAMD or the AAMG or whoever) have members in every state of the union, when a deaccession proposal is made which the field disagrees with they should direct (cajole, really) their in-state members to file a class action lawsuit against the offending museum with that state’s attorney general. In doing so they would bring existing laws to bear, put real pressure on the offending museum, and bring the field a little closer together by shunning one of their own, all without the fun of enacting new legislation or recreating the AAM, yet again.

It’s either this or we finally accept that the field’s “ethics” are in reality unenforceable best practices and that our national museum leadership consists of hall monitors, not field generals.

If you like this suggestion, you might like our proposal to more effectively fund museums.

Warp Speed

book12Warp Speed, n. Before 1966, how quickly one could prepare a loom.

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book12Stakeholder, n. A single-issue voter who contributes his or her agenda, but not money, to a museum project.

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