How do you combine empathy, a story and remember those who served in our military forces? The American Alliance of Museum Conference was last week. Much of the discussion was how do we bring empathy into exhibits. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Memorial Day. Sharing a story like Sgt. Reckless is one way to effectively combine Memorial Day and empathy in museums.
If you have been around horses you know that they can spook at the silliest thing – a leaf, a plastic bag or a loud noise. Sgt. Reckless was a marine (and a horse). She served in the Korean War. The battle for Outpost Vegas is known as the bloodiest fighting of the Marine Corps. This battle had cannonading and bombing seldom experienced in warfare. The battle raged on for days. Imagine smoke, noise, rice paddies and 45-degree mountain trails. There were 1,000 American casualties and probably twice as many Chinese. Reckless was in the middle of it all, delivering ammo to her marines. In one day she took 51 solo trips up these mountains during the heat of battle. She often carried wounded Marines back down. She was wounded twice, but kept going. As they say, she is not a horse, she is a marine.
That battle won her a promotion and endeared her even more to her Marines. They loved her. During battles they would throw their own flak jackets over her. Imagine the elation the marines felt when they saw the white-faced mare bringing them vitally needed ammunition. She lived amongst the Marines and had free rein in camp. If she was cold she would walk into someone’s tent and stand by the stove. The marines would throw a blanket over her. If she wanted attention she might reach over your shoulders and steal your poker chips. She loved scrambled eggs, candy and drinking beer with her Marines. Horses are herd animals and the marines became her herd.
I think horses can bring out the best in us. These marines loved her. I imagine having a horse around brought the men much needed joy. A horse brought empathy to the marines.
Sergeant Reckless is now honored at the Marine Corps Museum and Camp Pendleton. These monuments honor not just her but all marines. They help capture the hearts and minds of visitors. Viewers can empathize with the marine experience through the story of this hero horse. These pieces of art help amplify the experience. Thank you Sergeant Reckless for your service!
How do you tell the story in your exhibits that brings empathy to your visitors?
- How can you craft an exhibit that makes visitors understand what the marines felt for this horse?
- How can a hero story get people to understand a different world?
- How can you transform the visitor to another time and place?
- How can you provide a mirror to society?
- Can you give a viewer a different perspective or viewpoint?
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2013)