Lakeside’s high-school librarians put up a display in the entrance to their building that offers several tips for spotting fake news. One says: “What’s the evidence?” Underneath a flap there’s more detail: “As you read an article, make sure to see if they have any evidence to back up their claims. Furthermore, research the evidence to see if it is real, made up, or used in a way not intended by its creators.
There are several things discussed in the Seattle Times article linked above (have a reccy), but it was seeing a picture of the fake news spotting board, shared on tumblr, that got my attention.
There is a discussion oft had about museums and galleries etc responding to and reflecting current events. This could be a very simple way to do it. Museums and galleries are an especially interesting place to explore and explain the slant facts can be given, or how wholly fake facts can be presented, as many of them contain objects originally created with an agenda to push a certain narrative. Look at Lucy Worsley's recent BBC series "British History's Biggest Fibs" for some prime examples.
Set up a board like this, or create and print a sheet for people to take, and then have a few “information panels” added as extras to some displays or objects. Some true, some misleading, some outright wrong. Perhaps also use it as a way to highlight items in your collection which have a contentious history, or multiple ways to be interpreted. You may have some items which were created as fake news or exaggerated propaganda in their own time.
This is the sort of idea it can take a day or two to arrange quickly, or longer if you want to make things wholly professional looking rather than bits of printed paper. If you have the resources, turning a cabinet or area over to the entire idea would make for an interesting focal point, and perhaps allow you to get some items out of the archives.
Why do it?
Exploring fake news while looking at how historically its been used to smear, distract and promote, can engage, educate and inform your visitors in relevant, important and different ways. Your venue can tick some beautiful boxes, and if savvy you can get some local media coverage.
The most important reason to do it though is that getting attention through misinformation, poor research and outright lies is not a new thing, but at present it is something front and center, and something your trusted institution can help the public with. because heavens knows, we all need help discerning the truth right now.
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