Controversy at the County Historical Society: Organizational Climate and Cancel Culture

Abstract

In this fictional case based on real events, the curator of a county historical society finds herself in the midst of a controversy over the posting of a photo on social media. A powerful politician requested the posting of the photo—perhaps as a ploy to spearhead a proactive attack against “cancel culture” in an effort to get reelected. Posts quickly appeared supporting the photo, and those posts spawned counter posts from people offended by the photo and its racist history.

The curator received phone calls from the ten members of her board of directors. Five members supported the photo’s posting, while five claimed the post was offensive and that displaying the picture in this context seemed to celebrate a more bigoted era in the county’s history. The largest financial donor to the historical society also called, and she expressed deep concerns about being associated with the controversy arising from posting the photo. The curator’s contract will be up for renewal later this year, and she does not know the full impact of this controversy. She can think of three options to resolve the controversy, but none of them will please everyone.

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