This study aims to use the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois as a tool to attempt to understand how it represents African American history from both an ethnographic and artistic standpoint. The ultimate goal of this study is to try to learn more about museums as a whole as well as the subset of African American museums. Using literature on the role of museums in society, art museums, and African American museums I look at the various aspects at play while understanding how the different aspects of museums work together to create what viewers see at the exhibit. Using exhibit labels from many different exhibits, I uncover three themes that persist throughout the labels: politics, race, and women. All of these themes show up in both the ethnographic and art sections of the museums. Labels give contexts and important information about not just the materials but historical context as discussed by Baxandall, and the importance of showcasing a history that has been overlooked and underrepresented is talked about by Brooms. Using these as well as other literature, I ultimately discover an important representation of African American history through the objects and labels, as well as the museum’s role. The significance of this should not be underestimated, as showcasing this history proves to be an important in a society that has routinely glossed over an important facet of American history.


Frese, Pamela


Sociology and Anthropology


Museum Studies


museums, African American history

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 Grace N. Hodges