First, Ferris State University spurred the discussion of racism with the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia; now, a new conversation about another taboo topic is being opened with the new collection of women’s objects.
“The goal is to use the objects to teach about historical and contemporary patterns and examples of sexism,” Dr. David Pilgrim, vice president for diversity and inclusion and founder of the Jim Crow Museum said.
Everyday objects such as postcards, toys and games that show the degrading of women will be on display. These objects represent different forms of sexism.
“Many are old objects,” Pilgrim said. “Unfortunately, many are items created recently.”
This fledging project began with Pilgrim’s collection of sexism-related items, which he has accumulated over the last seven years. Recently, a committee was created to work through a mission and vision for the Sexism Collection.
Once the exhibit is established, it will be used as a tool to students to observe real-life illustrations of prejudice against women.
“It’s so much more interesting to learn through viewing real examples rather than reading it out of a textbook,” Ferris junior business administration major Brad Root said. “Ferris seems to be excelling in innovative teaching.”
The collection is currently housed on the third floor of the STARR building, in the same room the Jim Crow Museum was before moving to FLITE in 2012. Since the room was already in existence, and most of the objects were already purchased ,the cost of the collection was low. Pilgrim collected more than 1,000 of these objects.
Featured pieces include girl toys that imitate household appliances and caricatures depicting the dumb blonde, gold digger and more. A small portion of the collection incorporates material on women’s accomplishments and female role models.
Dr. Tracy Busch, an assistant professor in the Humanities Department, is leading the committee in this project. Over the last two years, Busch and other committee members have been dedicated to this progressive venture. The members of the committee, Trinity Williams, Carrie Weis, Karen Strasser, Rachel Foulk, David Pilgrim, Fran Rosen, Mari Kermit-Canfield, Jessica Cruz and Franklin Hughes, have been working to organize the pieces in the showcase.
“It’s important for us to learn about the history of gender roles but also about how sexism is still present to this day,“ Root said.
The Jim Crow Museum was established in 1996 when Pilgrim donated his 2,000-piece collection to Ferris. Its unique concept gained national attention and has been noted in the New York Times, on PBS and on National Public Radio.