I read an article this morning about two curators for the Washington National Museum of American History who have been going to both the RNC and the DNC since 1976. They aren’t there to play politics though: they’re there to collect what they deem are artifacts that will reflect the current time in our American history for future generations to see. And what always makes the cut when they’re making their choices? Political lapel pins and political buttons.
What they look for are the most passionate, the most divisive, and what they deem are the most poignant and pertinent for the current election cycle. Which means that while good old fashioned American flag lapel pins are always a good choice for convention goers, they aren’t going to be what ends up on the museum displays. Instead, outlandish, vitriolic political buttons are pocketed, and lapel pins that either point to future trends, or are quintessentially “now”. Which to me sounds like quite a daunting task.
If you stop to think about it, these two curators, and others around the country are responsible for how we will be seen to future generations. They invent the touchstones that mark our spot in the timeline. That’s a job that holds much weight and responsibility. The political lapel pins and buttons themselves though will be what is held accountable 100, 200, 500 years from now. They will be the touchstones that our great-great-great-great grandchildren look upon and marvel at. Lapel pins and political buttons are teachers and time capsules, and because of that, you will always see them at conventions like this week’s DNC, and you will always see them in display cases at famous museums throughout the world.