Pop Culture class enlightened by trip to American History Museum

Kurt Carson
Kurt Carson

Tuesday was a very big, exciting, and long day for Mr. Mitchell’s Pop Culture class as we took a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. Leaving WKU for the Nashville airport at 4:30 a.m. and not returning the students to campus until after 11:00 p.m. made for a lot of tired teachers, TAs, and students (although you could not tell by all the singing on the bus ride back to WKU). It was estimated that we walked over 9 miles throughout the duration of the trip.

However, all of the walking and tiredness was well worth it when considering the opportunity given to the class through the VAMPY program. While we have been studying pop culture decade-by-decade, each student has also been working on a report on an individual item displayed within the American Stories exhibit in the National Museum of American History. This trip allowed students to see their items up close and personal.

Students stood in front of their items and read their speeches aloud to teach the class and, oftentimes, other visitors who were interested in what the students had to say. Examples of these items included the red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Apolo Ohno’s ice skates from the 2002 Winter Olympics, or the video camera that recorded the only known footage of the first plane flying into the World Trade Center tower on 9/11.

We also got the opportunity to talk to Stacey Kluck, a curator of pop culture in the Division of Culture and the Arts. The students asked questions and were able to hear how he got to the position he has today, how they choose what goes in to the different exhibits, the way they validate certain items, etc. He was very generous of his time and willingness to talk with the class, and he even walked around with us at the American Stories exhibit and listened to the students’ reports.

The second half of our visit to Washington, D.C. was spent trekking around the city to see the different monuments and memorials. We visited the Washington Monument, the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

These are the types of experiences that these students will always remember – the time they stood in front of and gave a report on Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves or the view from the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking down on the Reflecting Pool. Hopefully the bond between the students and their connections to pop culture will continue to grow as we continue our study of the influence of American pop culture.

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