June, which is Pride Month, marks 50 years since the police raid on the Stonewall Inn that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. And as people continue to demonstrate for those rights where they're threatened, as well as access to abortion, labor protections, peace and other causes, the Cayuga Museum of History & Art will explore the "Power of Protest" with a new exhibit opening Friday.
"Protest is one of those rights we take so fundamentally for granted because it's so protected as a right," said Geoffrey Starks, the museum's new director of development and outreach. "It's something that everyone in every community has the right and the ability to be involved in."
Focusing on both Cayuga County and the nation, "Power of Protest: Effecting Social Change" narrates a history of the subject that spans the abolition movement of the 19th century to the anti-war one of the 2000s, Starks said. Locally, Auburn's role in the former is part of the exhibit, he continued. More recently, it also covers the 1993 protest of an attempted neo-Nazi rally downtown.
Auburn was no stranger to the labor rights movement, either, as represented in the exhibit by the strikes at Columbian Rope Co. in 1913 and 1965. A piece of wrought iron fencing from the factory is one of many artifacts Starks and museum Executive Director Kirsten Wise used to accentuate the exhibit's panels of texts and pictures, he said. The museum also commissioned recordings of protest songs from local groups to interpret the demonstrations against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And visitors are invited to share stories of their causes, which will be posted at the museum.
Beyond just documenting protest, Starks said, the second-floor exhibit also attempts to explore questions. Stonewall, for instance, prompts the question of when protest becomes a riot, he continued.
That aspect of "Power of Protest" made working at the Cayuga Museum appealing to Starks, he said. Wise began planning the exhibit years ago, he continued, so it came up during his interview.
"It fit into what I think museums should be talking about, and the kind of work we should be engaging our communities with," he said.
Friday actually begins the first of two parts of "Power of Protest," Starks noted. The second will come in October and cover other protest movements.
"Because we're coming up with so many resources, we don't want to ignore different movements," he said.
"You'll get exhibits on specific protests," Sparks continued. "But you'll rarely get so much of an exploration of protest as a concept."