dr. kara's project: the people's museum of brockton

Who are the makers of history?  What is Archaeology of the Present?

What stories are woven together that help us make sense of, remember, 
and celebrate the past? 

Dr. Kara McCormack seeks to celebrate the history of one city by curating the personal artifacts of its inhabitants.

The People's Museum of Brockton is a crowd-sourced museum to be created by the people of Brockton.

It's revolutionary! The People's Museum challenges the traditional concept of what a museum is "supposed" to look like. 


Traditionally, museums house artifacts reflecting an "official" popular history of a place. This is most often a history that remains static and reflects only a very small aspect of a place. Kara contends that history is dynamic and multi-layered. So she created The People's Museum of Brockton.  

Why a "People's Museum?" 

What and who are the makers of Brockton’s history? What stories are woven together that help us make sense of, remember, and celebrate Brockton’s vibrant past—and the present on its way to becoming the past?  

How do artifacts and keepsakes memorialize and mediate the past? Further, what happens in the process of “museumification” of what may seem like ordinary “things”? And how important is it for citizens to see themselves reflected in the official history of the place they call home?

By the People: The People’s Museum of Brockton will celebrate the constantly changing face of Brockton, generate local pride, and inspire the community to consider what gives them a sense of place and belonging. Located at the Gallery at Enso Flats, this community project will feature personal objects and their histories donated by citizens who have a particular story to tell about their connection to this city and their own lives. The resulting crowd-sourced collection will demonstrate and celebrate the diversity of cultures and perspectives that tend to be absent from official histories of Brockton. 

How to contribute:

The call is out to all Brockton residents to bring one artifact—a photograph, varsity jacket, painting, poetry, song, newspaper clipping, yearbook, wedding announcement, shoe, pencil sharpener—ANYTHING that has a personal story and that signifies their connection to Brockton.

Everyone will complete a submission form that indicates the significance of the item and the reasons it was chosen to be part of the project. These items will be curated into an exhibit at the Gallery at Enso Flats that celebrates the diversity of perspectives and people who call Brockton home.

Multimedia will also be included—audio and video recordings of donors and their families and friends; broadcasts of events in Brockton’s recent history; and music by local musicians.
The project will culminate in an opening reception at which everyone who submitted something along with city officials and leaders in the arts, humanities, and history all mingle and discuss what the exhibits reveal about ourselves, our relationship to each other, and the meaning of the city itself.

About Dr. Kara:

Dr. Kara McCormack is fresh off her stint as a Thinking Matters Fellow at Stanford University after receiving her PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her first book, Imagining Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die, was released by the University Press of Kansas in the spring of 2016. Kara's research has focused on cultural studies, U.S. history, critical theory, and popular culture, with emphases on the U.S. West, public history and cultural memory, and science/dystopian fiction. 

She's also a Star Wars freak.
see??? Star Wars tattoos!

a dedicated social butterfly

How this Project Came About (from Kara's website).

While driving in downtown Brockton in the summer of 2016 in search for a particular store, I realized how different the landscape of downtown is from how it was when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Gone are the Polynesian restaurant, the high-end women’s boutique, and business offices. In their place are empty storefronts and abandoned buildings, but also vibrant restaurants and specialty stores, serving an ever-diversifying community in the “City of Champions” and outside my own memories as a child here.

behind the wheel: doc kara's natural habitat.

My family moved to Brockton in 1968 from Stoughton, Massachusetts, when I was a year old. My Irish-American parents were both born and raised in Boston. My mother, Anne, grew up in Jamaica Plain, the daughter of an Irish-American police officer and Irish-Portuguese-American department store employee. My father, Bob, grew up in Dorchester, the son of a U.S. southern-born Irish-American roofer and an Irish-Canadian-American homemaker. My parents decided on Brockton because of its opportunities for raising a family: good schools, affordable homes, and easy access to the highway. They had no real connection to the 19th century history of this world-famous shoe-manufacturing city, although we did buy our shoes at the Taymor Shoe Company on Montello Street. That building is now gone.

Steez on point since the early 80s.

The cityscape of Brockton seems to be in a continual state of transition, with questions about how to define its public identity as well as its public space, which appears to some to be in a state of decay, with higher crime and poverty than in the “old days.” Old timers might look nostalgically on the days when manufacturing and industry defined the city, imagining a past that far outshines the present. This is the image of Brockton that dominates its official history, which mostly focuses on Brockton’s preeminence as shoe manufacturer during the Civil War, the industry that would attract immigrants from Ireland and Italy and other European countries well into the 20th century. The official popular history also points to Brockton as “The City of Champions,” with a nod toward its most famous residents, Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, both of whose tenacity and willingness to fight have defined the city in the modern day.

The industry that served as the foundation for the city’s initial prosperity is mostly gone. But in its place is a thriving city that offers hope, opportunity, and community to an ever-shifting population. Still a city of immigrants, the face of the city is an always-evolving, dynamic place of diversity and vitality.

looking toward the future

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