Throwback to my first trip to New York City last November. Seeing the Statue of Liberty and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge were amazing experiences, and fulfilled two of my childhood dreams.
I didn’t expect a hurried pass through a nondescript subway station to become another memorable experience.
As my husband Rafael and I rushed to catch our train, we noticed that one of the crowded station’s walls was completely covered in brightly colored Post-it notes. Curious, we slowed down to take a look. At the far end of the wall was a stack of Post-it notes, a pen, and a sign encouraging people to share their thoughts and feelings about the presidential election, which had taken place less than a month earlier. Commuters were milling around the wall, some reading the messages left by others, and some writing messages of their own.
A dirty subway wall had been transformed into a 100% user generated and curated museum exhibit. The objects? Cheap office supplies inscribed with the thoughts, experiences, and feelings of everyday New Yorkers.
As someone who is passionate about history and museum education, it was cool to see people sharing personal stories, and documenting their own history. To me, that’s what museums, and history, are really all about.
In order for museums to flourish in the twenty-first century, they need to be places of dialogue, places that connect the personal experiences of visitors to something bigger. And who would’ve thought museum professionals could find inspiration in the subway?
In December, the notes were taken down, but they weren’t thrown away. They are being preserved by the New York Historical society as an important piece of the city’s history.