Diorama debate

Re: Warnke letter, April 13

Tom Warnke’s dressing down of Sheridan County Museum’s executive director over the removal of his Rosebud diorama from exhibit is a dismaying read. It meanders around wondering if other dioramas will be appreciated at levels he finds satisfying and asks if “there is anyone in the community that agrees that this was one stupid leadership decision?” I am pleased to weigh in on the matter.

It has been my treat to watch Sheridan adapt gracefully to modern visitors as we solidify our role as a premier tourist destination, even while we protect ideals and landscapes that make this place one worth visiting. Key in this achievement has been leaders’ discerning eye for what will keep attractions fresh and relevant, without sacrificing quality or authenticity. I have watched with pride as my hometown has robustly supported our area cultural institutions and rewarded bold decisions by leaders with courage. It is not easy to lead boldly — especially when a vocal few are willing to publicly resort to sarcasm and mean-spirited remarks.

The interpretation of Indian Wars battles has evolved dramatically in a relatively short stretch of time. In the past, mainstream narratives have been dominated by non-native voices. Today, those who steward cultural artifacts (items, landscapes, stories) have a responsibility to hold space for diverse perspectives. Consider the intersection of square-footage, the challenge of making history an engaging activity, and the complexities of war narratives. Sometimes a diorama may not be the most effective medium to achieve the interpretive goal.

Regarding Mr. Warnke’s claim that removal of the diorama is in “lockstep with the current movement in the USA of tearing down statues of past leaders,” I hardly think that a diorama can be cited as a monument of sorts. For those who are interested, I encourage them to visit the Rosebud Battle Site — the living artifact and monument to that dramatic day.

I don’t expect everyone to understand or embrace these concepts. However, I do expect those professionals who adventure to champion our local histories to be treated with civility and respect. I suspect that Mr. Warnke was speaking facetiously when he referred to the “brilliant piece of leadership” demonstrated by Sheridan County Museum’s director, but I will confidently recycle his phrase in full seriousness. I applaud the director and board for their leadership — the museum redesign endeavors to carry our local history into modernity, in hopes of guaranteeing relevance and value to Wyomingites and travelers alike. Though this achievement may not be seen for months or even years, I vigorously toast the pledge.

Misty Moore Stoll