Images via the Museum of Us Facebook.
It was ten years ago this month that my brother Micah Parzen, an anthropologist and attorney, became the director of San Diego’s iconic Museum of Man.
As of yesterday, thanks to his efforts, the museum is now called the Museum of Us.
From his earliest days as steward of one of the city’s most recognizable and influential cultural institutions, he talked privately about his desire to make the museum’s name more representative of the community it serves.
The blowback from city patricians was unexpectedly harsh.
In a world where citizens of all walks of life are more actively reflecting on the significance of urban iconography, it may be hard for some to understand why people would react so aggressively to the thought of updating the museum’s name. But it took my brother a decade to achieve the political balance and capital that made it possible.
It’s part of his overarching campaign to “decolonize” the museum commmunity in the U.S. by recognizing and addressing systemic disenfranchisement.
“Change is hard and change is messy,” he said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribuine, “but it can be transformational, too. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
If you’ve ever flown into the main San Diego airport, it’s more likely than not that you passed nearly directly over the museum (above). In many ways, the unmistakable neo-colonial Spanish baroque architecture is a symbol for the city itself, a synecdoche of its cultural history and past.
Today, that museum is the museum of us. And that’s thanks to my brother. We couldn’t be more proud. Be sure to check out the Union-Tribune story.