Crime and Punishment, But No Victims: The Mob Museum of Las Vegas

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia. In it, she continues her series of museum reviews with a visit to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Photos by Dr. Kadia. 

Although most tourists probably don’t associate Las Vegas with museums, the city is in fact home to some noteworthy institutions. One interesting example is the Mob Museum, located downtown in a former courthouse. At $26.95 for out-of-state adult admission ($16.95 for Nevada residents with ID) entry is not cheap, but perhaps a bargain compared with the casinos up the street. One might easily spend as much as three hours perusing the three stories of exhibits and basement reconstructions of a speakeasy and distillery.

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The Mob Museum of Las Vegas

The exhibition begins on the third floor with a discussion of the origins of the Mob in the late nineteenth century. Curators narrate: whereas most immigrants to the U.S. were “good,” “a few thought they would choose a shortcut to the American dream.” Evoking Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign comments about “bad hombres,” the museum’s casual scapegoating of Irish, Italian, and Jewish foreigners for mobsterism feels not only misleading but dangerous.

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Drugs on Display in Japan: The Daiichi Sankyō Pharmaceutical Museum

by Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, Contributing Editor

Daiichi Sankyō is a pharmaceutical corporation based in Japan, with more than fifty offices around the world. In 2012, the company opened the Kusuri Myūjiamu [Pharmaceutical Museum] to showcase its century-plus history, successes, and future ambitions in drug development.
east-asiaI visited the museum one rainy Friday morning in early June 2017. The museum is located in the Daiichi Sankyō building in downtown Tokyo, with the main exhibit hall on the second floor. Admission is free. Signs posted outside suggest allocating one hour for a visit. Guests are asked to leave bags in coin lockers outside the main hall, and photographs are not permitted.

Upon arrival, the visitor is handed a large plastic button. The button is carried from station to station and placed on portals to activate auditory content. At the entry terminal, the visitor inputs some demographic information and selects a language for presentation (options include English, Japanese, and Chinese). The button subsequently activates speech in the language of choice for each subsequent display. Inasmuch as I appreciated the unique, almost futuristic design of the terminals, when a large number of patrons entered at once, the general noise level of the room rose to a point where the vocalization became almost inaudible.

The text of the exhibit is pitched at about the level of a Japanese middle-school biology course (which perhaps explains why most of the visitors I saw were schoolgirls in uniform, diligently filling out worksheets). Daiichi Sankyō emphasizes the scientific nature of its production process by inundating the viewer with chemical formulas and structures, experimental setups, and clips of researchers and pharmacists at work. The somewhat dry presentation is enlivened at points with interactive opportunities such as multiple-choice quizzes. Continue reading →

“Without Hemp Columbus Would Not Have Reached America”: Barcelona’s Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum

Editor’s Note: Today’s piece is by Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, Associate Professor of History at University of Colorado Boulder and author of the book, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History.

Having visited museums and exhibitions on intoxicants (several of which I’ve reviewed for Points) in nearly ten different countries, a few consistent patterns have emerged. Perhaps most strikingly, content tends to focus overwhelmingly on production and regulation, while all but entirely excluding issues around consumption. In national institutions such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (Washington, D.C.), the Drug Elimination Museum (Yangon, Myanmar), and the Opium Museum (Chiang Rai, Thailand), this slant reinforces other forms of anti-drug propaganda in vilifying “evil” traffickers against a “hero” state. At private institutions, where curators may enjoy greater intellectual freedom, many are nonetheless discouraged by the lack of reliable information to show the public.

The Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum of Barcelona, by contrast, is almost entirely devoted to consumption of Spain’s most recently decriminalized substance. Together with its “older sister” institution in the Netherlands (a nation long known for its liberal drug policies), this museum encourages the tolerance and even celebration of marijuana by showcasing the many important functions the drug has played for users around the world and throughout time. Continue reading →

The German Museum of Pharmacy: A Historiographic Time Capsule

Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by Miriam Kingsberg, an assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This summer she visited the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum in Munich and has provided us with a review of its collections. All photos are courtesy of her as well. Enjoy!

During a two-month sojourn in Germany this summer, I eagerly anticipated a visit to Munich’s famed Beer and Octoberfest Museum—in the name of “research,” naturally. Less renowned than this hotspot and its many sister institutions, but equally relevant to historians of intoxicants, is the country’s sole attempt to reconstruct its pharmaceutical history: the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum (hereafter referred to as DAM), located since 1958 in the breathtaking Heidelberg Castle.

exterior of DAM

The exterior of the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum

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