The Palimpsest at Slater Mill

book. 2007

History always constitutes the relation between a present and its past. The past is not for living in; it is a well of conclusions from which we draw in order to act. — John Berger

To speak of the ideological apparatus underlying museum practices is to speak of the relation among power, representation, and cultural identity; of how history is written and communicated. Behind their often-cavernous halls of cultural relics, museums are places where basis of hierarchies valuing one culture over another. Art and artifact, style and period, high and low, dominant and marginal - these are the boundaries museums rely on to sustain “society’s most revered beliefs and values.” — Carol Duncan, Alan Wallach

There were many women from farms who labored in New England textile mills during the 1830s. The Palimpsest at Slater Mill reveals that the image of American industry has focused on dominant and powerful people (typically men) and simultaneously memorializes anonymous women workers.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where Slater Mill is located, is called the birth place of American industrialization. I took rubbings from the Slater Mill museum plaques, which honor some of the prominent men in the mill’s history. I re-arranged the letters from the plaque to make the song “Factory Girls.”