Arguably, the deeper context for lynching at the N-YHS afforded viewers an opportunity to regain their composure in the face of lawlessness.
Theory, in this case, offers a way to explain how the visitor's encounter with the radical force of lynching may have been formally compromised at the N-YHS where, when located in relation to its contemporary counter-movements, lynching was effectively contextualized within a rational construction.
One could say that the actual three-dimensional space of an exhibition allows the viewer to infer empty spaces, at times to see the fronts and backs of objects, to reverse direction, etc., and it appears that such freedom of movement was intended by the N-YHS staff.
Panofsky's observations lead me to suggest this paradox: neutralization and correction, in this case the greater depth-of-field achieved at the N-YHS, can actually dilute the force of the re-presented historical moments.
White defers to Roland Barthes ("Structural Analysis" 119) to make a distinction between the mere nonnarrative copy of historical events (we might think of the raw annals form of the Roth Horowitz exhibit) and the historical narrative (perhaps the motive of the N-YHS), which "ceaselessly substitutes meaning for the straightforward copy of the events recounted" (White 1-2).
Reviewing and reacting to the N-YHS exhibit and its depth-of-field, Gregorio Malena wrote in Harlem Overheard (2001) that its "nonchalant pose" compromised a "powerful" yet "matter-of-fact" presentation.
When examining the Roth Horowitz and N-YHS exhibitions, and subsequent exhibitions at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and the Martin Luther King, Jr.
How, then, can we begin to grasp the trauma to which lynching images testify and the trauma experienced by the visitor to exhibitions such as those at Roth Horowitz and the N-YHS?
(4) The need for a corrective was noted by Grady Turner, then Director of Exhibitions at N-YHS, who explained that the absence of context at Roth Horowitz contributed to the impression that the images were being aestheticized.
N-YHS. New York Daily News, November 25, 1865; New York Sun, November 25, 1865; New York Tribune, November 26, 1865; New York Times, November 25 and 27, 1865.
Report of the Joint Committee on the Centennial Celebration of the Evacuation of New York by the British, November 26, 1883, with an Historical Introduction by John Austin Stevens (New York, 1885): 7, 160-169; Minutes of the Committee of Arrangements, volume 1, entries for November 8, 9, and 13, 1883, Evacuation Day, Committee of Arrangements Box, John Austin Stevens Papers, N-YHS; New York City Board of Aldermen, Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York, from October 1st 1883 to January 7th, 1884 (New York, 1884): 7, 404-405, 620-625; New York Times, November 24, 26, and 27, 1883; Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 1, 1883; Andrew Lester, Diary, November 23, 1879-April 29, 1888, entry for November 26, 1883, N-YHS.