Last year, I came across a dung-colored painting in the local Goodwill that was so comically horrid that I offered to buy it and donate it to the Museum of Bad Art (the painting was ninety-nine cents). The Museum of Bad Art didn’t want the painting. Apparently the finer points of bad art were lost on me.
This episode came to mind as I pondered the collection at the Presidents Hall of Fame. Surely there must be a method to the madness; given the sheer scope of the subject matter one would have to draw the line somewhere. For instance, I did not see a farting George W. Bush doll. Aha! Perhaps we can eliminate anything tasteless (although what does or does not constitute “taste” is very subjective), or anything vulgar, crass, or gross. This narrows the scope down somewhat, but we still aren’t getting anywhere. For every “I Like Ike” pin handed out in 1952 there are 1.5 million items either made in the shape of Barack Obama or with Barack Obama’s name on them, including a piece of toast.
Selecting the perfect items for the museum must be a massive undertaking, a delicate dance between historical value and mass appeal. I don’t suppose that humor plays any role except an inadvertent one.
How do they draw the line? Collectibility is only part of the story, and many items appear to ignore credibility or official authorization. I am not referring to the magnificent dioramas that depict the construction of the White House or the three-ring circus, but to a couple of pieces of framed campaign “artwork” that couldn’t possibly be anything other than handmade, with lots of love.
In broad terms, the museum covers Presidents and “Americana.” The circus falls under the mantle of Americana, but Americana can also be used as an excuse for the truly mind-boggling, especially in the gift shop. I see the gift shop more than the museum as a desperate attempt to tie it all together into a coherent narrative. The shop is apparently merchandised by three categories: Presidents, Christmas, and circus, and it is there that you learn of the crossover among these three themes. I do not think there is room left for any new merchandise, so when you visit, please buy something.
Here we have something that is too large to fit into the museum, but which isn’t easily visible from the road. I didn’t see it until we rode to the top of the Citrus Tower. If it were not for this parking-lot Mt. Rushmore, I’d never have known the museum was there.
From this we learn of minor modern advances in comfortable theatre seating.
Suitable for the political midway.
Folks, on the left we have displays of both Presidential memorabilia and Americana. In the display cases on the right you will find a collection of dolls representing Presidential wives. We are especially proud of our Jackie dolls, but don’t think we aren’t equally crazy about Eleanor Roosevelt!
This was my favorite item. I think.