The Drug Culture Gets a Museum

The Drug Culture Gets a Museum
Posted by FoM on April 20, 2000 at 12:24:19 PT
By Andrew Ferguson
Source: Time Magazine
Peering into a museum display case in Arlington, Va., Elizabeth James, 15, looks in wonderment at the artifacts spread out before her. The display re-creates the window of a "head shop" from the 1970s. What catches her attention isn't the array of marijuana pipes, rolling papers and bongs; like most American high schoolers nowadays, she's a veteran of drug-education classes from fifth grade onward and has seen it all before, in movies and in classroom programs. 
No, what interests her are the psychedelic posters pinned to the wall, great swirling designs in Day-Glo colors proclaiming PEACE and LOVE and the other phantasms of a bygone era. "These are kind of cool," she says. "Were they for decoration? Like, on your wall?"Ah, youth! Yes, my child, once upon a time...So it goes, at least part of the time, at the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, a long sliver of a room tucked off the lobby of the DEA's headquarters, just across the Potomac from Washington. In a metropolitan area swarming with museums, this one is unique. Having opened only last May, it's too young to have earned a must-see designation on capital tours, and with an exhibit space of only 2,200 sq. ft., it's a dwarf among the Smithsonian titans. Its theme--"Illegal Drugs in America: A Modern History"--isn't the ordinary stuff of sightseer oohing and aahing. But it's a strangely compelling place nonetheless, fast gaining popularity among area schools and youth groups. The museum is part propaganda, part history lesson and--for baby boomers of a certain age and tendency--part stroll down memory lane.Displays at the museum begin with the Opium Wars of the 19th century and extend to the bloody confrontations with Colombian cocaine cartels in our day. Elizabeth and 15 of her classmates from Arlington's Washington-Lee High School followed this narrative arc with the help of Fred Smith, who, like most of the museum's docents, is a retired DEA special agent.Smith was happy to regale the kids with tales of exotic stakeouts and drug busts. (He spent much of his career in France and North Africa.) And he took special pleasure in pointing out the collection's more unusual artifacts: the Superfly fur coat and alligator-skin platform shoes donned by an agent for a 1970s undercover sting; an unlucky drug lord's diamond-handled revolver; a hollowed-out, lime-green surfboard used to smuggle drugs off the coast of Florida. And there's much more.For baby boomers, the museum freezes under glass that deceptively innocent era, roughly from the late '60s to the late '70s, when the phrase recreational drugs had not yet become a tragicomic oxymoron. In addition to the paraphernalia collection--which resembles nothing so much as a college dorm room circa 1975--there are photos of such icons of the day as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Timothy Leary (twice!), as well as the shorter-lived Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.There's even a poster for Reefer Madness, the earnestly lunatic, 1930s antimarijuana film that was revived in the irony-drenched '60s and '70s. "We wanted to show how hokey [the movie] was," says Sean Fearns, of the DEA public-affairs section. "It was so naive to think that this kind of thing would keep kids off drugs."Needless to say, the exhibit is otherwise irony-free, the DEA not being known as the wackiest of the federal law-enforcement agencies. The tour ends in a mini-theater that plays those particularly gruesome antidrug TV ads that we're used to seeing these days, with troops of hollow-eyed addicts testifying to the dark side of drugs. It forms quite a contrast with the psychedelic posters and love beads in the head-shop window. And it's effective too, at least according to most of the kids on a recent visit. "You have to get their interest before you can give them information," said Brenda Harris, who brought the kids from her class on health and physical education. "And I think this place has definitely got their attention." April 17, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 15 Copyright  2000 Time Inc.Related Articles: Museum of Substance - Salon Magazine Museum Tribute to the War on Drugs
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on April 21, 2000 at 03:42:20 PT
Thanx JRB... Link city.....About 10 or 15 minutes ago,I started roaming thru the links,,and now it's two hours later?.............dddd
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Comment #8 posted by John R. Bills on April 21, 2000 at 01:06:09 PT:
The link didn't work. Try this.
Paste into your address bar, or go to the link below and click articles on the left-hand side of the menu.
The link that is below
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Comment #7 posted by John R. Bills on April 21, 2000 at 00:59:49 PT:
A cleverly insightful bit of prose my man!
Kudos to the Kaptin. Try some of these dddd.
Awesome Articles to Enlighten All Who Dare Read
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on April 20, 2000 at 19:57:00 PT:
'Got their attention', all right
It never fails. Is it that some people suffer from a sort of slow motion anoxia which lessens their mental capacities that they forget what their own adolesence was like? How they couldn't wait to do what their parents told them not to?If these propagandists think that they are redirecting their youthful targets in the direction they want to go, I suggest instead that they visit a local barnyard and observe how a farmer leads a pig. You prod it in the opposite direction of where you want it to go, because it is in the pig's contrary nature to move agaisnt the way you direct it. This is not to suggest that the behavior of adolescents is commensurate to that of a pig; the kids are too smart and savvy to fall for that (I hope). But the very nature of the challenge made (and make no mistake, it *is* a challenge) invites a negative response. This is like waving a red flag in front of a bull... and is just as stupid. Remember folks, the latest generation has been the first to hear Just Say No! almost every minute of their young lives... and they account for the biggest rise in drug usage. Forbidden fruit always seems to taste sweeter. Whereas the store bought stuff is just... fruit. You can take it or leave it. And most do.The DEA, with their sophomoric museum, are doing nothing but drumming up business for their drug dealer 'enablers' in this sick co-dependant relationship.
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Comment #5 posted by dddd on April 20, 2000 at 19:12:44 PT
FoM & observer;Thank you for all the links. Those were the days.......dddd
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 20, 2000 at 18:01:32 PT
More Museums!
Hi observer & dddd!Here are a few more museum articles. The first one you need to be registered to view. It's from The New York Times.Museum Gives Hippie Stuff the Acid Test 30 articles on Museums came up here. I'm having a field day dddd and observer! from the land downunder!All Hippie Retrospectacle Thriving Down Under or Sober, Nimbin is a Trip really like the couple of pictures in this article.High Spot In History from the U.K.!!!'s one from way back when in San Francisco! bout a Hemp Museum? LOL! This is fun!Hemp Museum Opens Doors you all enjoy your trip down memory lane! I am, thanks for the links observer!Peace, FoM!
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Comment #3 posted by observer on April 20, 2000 at 17:14:42 PT
also see:DEA Museum Arlington articles (mapinc) Hypnosis and "Reefer Madness"From the book Mind Control in America Posted by Richard Cowan on 2000-02-22 18:34:48 
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on April 20, 2000 at 17:03:54 PT
Memory Lane
Yes,those were the days.Head shops smelling of inscence,with an array of paraphenalia,and underground comix.It's enough to make an old hippie cry....dddd
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Comment #1 posted by observer on April 20, 2000 at 14:44:52 PT
Government Works Project: Keep Kids On Drugs
There's even a poster for Reefer Madness, the earnestly lunatic, 1930s antimarijuana film that was revived in the irony-drenched '60s and '70s. "We wanted to show how hokey [the movie] was," says Sean Fearns, of the DEA public-affairs section. "It was so naive to think that this kind of thing would keep kids off drugs."To the contrary, Reefer Madness was intended to encourage youth to use marijuana, while at the same time, serving as agit-prop for more laws (and law enforcement $$$) to combat this "new" "scourge" and "menace"...Speaking of tapes: I got a tape called Mind Control In America from Steven Jacobson (PO Box 15734, Winston-Salem NC 27113). Although slightly Christian paranoid in its outlook, Steven has succeeded in uncovering what really sounds like backward masking. But the coolest thing is his theory of control. You know the old lefty idea that you should try to make as much trouble as possible. The reason: it'll bring fascism and fascism will make people revolt? Steven turns this theory on it's head. He says the government is encouraging people to make trouble so people will welcome fascism as a way to protect them. He uses, as an example, the movie Reefer Madness. The movie can be watched on two levels. It horrifies adults by showing teens having free sex and wild parties. At the same time, it thrills and entices teens by showing free sex and wild parties. This encourages teens to use drugs and adults to fight them. This double whammy, says Steven, is responsible both for our stupidly restrictive drug laws, and widespread drug use. He has plenty of other examples-- and they make sense. Considering the state of Civil Liberties in the U.S. and the calls for more jails. It just might be that Steven is right. . .
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