An ad-hoc focus group of one

Yesterday I unexpectedly did the first audience survey for the Civil War in the Community of Nations exhibit, and it was perfect.

My friend is a thirty-something white guy, over-educated, an Alabamian keenly aware of Southern history, and involved in anti-racism efforts and other social justice causes. He spends most of his days taking his adolescent children to summer camp. I told him about this proposed exhibit on the Confederacy (I pitched it as CS, not both parties), international politics, and the process of liberal state formation.

He opened his eyes, jerked his head up, and gave me a very sincere and thoughtful… I’ve never thought of it that way before.


The chief advantage this theme has is that it truly is a different perspective on the Civil War and I would leverage that in everything about the exhibit.

But it got better. The discussion veered into the subject of the Confederate policy of financing the war with loans from British and French banks. My friend blurted out, Why would I want to know about people who supported that atrocious government?

And there it is—the point of entry problem for non-traditional audiences and Confederate stuff.

We searched for relevant connections. By this point our conversation had been informed by this Washington Post article on how the liability insurance industry may be more effective in reforming police departments than anti-police brutality activists. Back to the matter of British support via loans, my friend wondered what the historical episode might teach us about who supports morally dubious enterprises, why they do so, and what makes them change their minds–the morality, or the bad investment?

It’s not the original academic thesis, but it is accessible.

Revelation. Connection. Relevance.

This conversation happened at one of the filming locations of Last of the Mohicans. I’m unemployed, this exhibit doesn’t exist, so this is all hot air: but I couldn’t be happier!

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