"Americans All?" - Messages in Miniature
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A small white-collar project of the Works Progress Administration project called the Museum Extension Project (MEP) operated in the latter half of the 1930s in at least twenty-four states including Indiana. A product of this visual aid program was the twelve-inch miniature figure dressed in clothing to reflect periods in US history or countries or cultures throughout the world. Museum and Indiana school educators used the MEP figures, as part of a broader intercultural learning agenda, to demonstrate or encourage ethnic appreciation and inclusion, while also fostering “otherness”–all in the safety of classrooms and informal educational settings. The figures simultaneously expanded the definition of membership in a majority white cultural group by adding and validating recent white immigrants while they continued to differentiate “the other”–Black and Native Americans as well as non-European immigrants through the cultural construct of race. These miniature figures allowed students to learn about the ethnic populations of their state and made the world available to all. At the same time, they prescribed the role of “other” to Indigenous Peoples throughout the world, the inhabitants of South and Central American countries, and those perceived as “non-white” peoples in places like Palestine and Egypt. This research examines educational philosophy in the first quarter of the twentieth century combined with the material culture analysis of these figures to demonstrate how three-dimensional objects were powerful educational tools.