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Examiner
A blog 'for independent minds'
The Difference Between a Freak Show and a Museum
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rob Meltzer
April 10, 2014 5:19 p.m.



With two stupid new “museums” opening, one at the World Trade Center and the other commemorating the murder at the Boston Marathon last year, we have, anew, the question of how we remember events. Increasingly, we find confusion between “museums” which, by definition, contain items which reflect cultural artifacts of a specific time, and the freak show, in which curiosities are preserved and displayed for the sake of gawking and staring. Today, we often call “freak shows” either “memorials” or “theme parks” but the effect is the same.  Its ok to go to these freak shows–gawk away. Its human nature. But what is new here, in this new breed of freak shows, which often now also include exhibits related to mass killings, is the idea that the government should both pay for the freak show and maintain the freak show. One hundred years ago, Barnum would have maintained both the Ground Zero and the Marathon exhibits, he would have traveled the country with them, and you would have gotten a free t-shirt with your one dollar entrance fee to the show. Today, these freak shows are raised to the level of sacred ground. In a larger sense, that’s ok until the costs are added up. By all definitions, the idea of making the center of the 16 acre World Trade Center site into a freak show has made it one of the most expensive, ugly, and wasteful freak shows in the history of public entertainment. By one calculation, the amount of water wasted at the Trade Center site is equivalent to the amount of water needed for five years to end drought in Sudan.  Building on the World Trade Center site and dedicating the rents to good causes would have made more sense. But no, this is now land where one must remove one’s shoes in reverence and awe. And now that these freak shows and exhibits have become public charges, they are now fair game for inquiry whether the taxpayers should be paying for freak shows at all, and, if so, to what extent?

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