Following airing of “Leaving Neverland” documentary on HBO, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis removes Michael Jackson items from display.
David Lindquist/IndyStar, David Lindquist/IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS — The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis removed three Michael Jackson items from exhibits this month, joining a handful of organizations that have reassessed connections to the late singer following HBO’s airing of documentary film “Leaving Neverland.”
The two-part film, which premiered March 3-4, focuses on Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two adult men who allege Jackson sexually abused them when they were children.
“When we put together exhibitions, we look at the objects and their association with high-profile people,” said Chris Carron, the museum’s director of collections. “Obviously, we want to put stories in front of our visitors (showing) people of high character.”
A fedora and glove Jackson wore onstage as well as a Jackson poster are no longer on display at the museum, 3000 N. Meridian St. The fedora and glove, purchased in 2017 from New York auction house Gotta Have Rock and Roll, were displayed in the “American Pop” exhibit within the museum’s Galleries for American Arts and Popular Culture.
A Jackson poster was seen as part of a Ryan White tribute in the museum’s “Power of Children” exhibit. White, an Indiana teenager diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion, died in 1990.
After the “Leaving Neverland” film aired, radio stations in Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands pulled Jackson’s music from playlists.
A 1991 episode of “The Simpsons” TV series that guest-starred Jackson has been removed from streaming platforms and will not appear in future boxed sets. On Thursday, French fashion company Louis Vuitton announced it will no longer produce Jackson-influenced pieces for an autumn/winter 2019 collection.
On the air
In the United States, no radio stations have pulled Jackson’s music from playlists.
According to a Billboard magazine report, spins of Jackson’s songs fell by 13 percent at terrestrial and satellite radio stations nationwide after “Leaving Neverland” premiered.
Conversely, the public purchased and streamed an increased amount of Jackson’s music after “Leaving Neverland” premiered.
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Jackson’s combined album and song sales (including his work with the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons) increased by 10 percent March 3-5 when compared to the previous week. On-demand streams of Jackson’s music rose 6 percent during the same time period.
Executives at the companies that own WYXB-FM (105.7), WTLC-FM (106.7) and WNOW-FM (100.9) declined to comment for this report. Attempts to reach executives at the company that owns WZPL-FM (99.5), WNTR-FM (107.9) and WYRG-FM (93.9) were unsuccessful.
The museum’s call
Carron said removal of the Jackson items was a group decision.
“We always deal with this collaboratively as a team,” Carron said. “We look at our audiences; we look at the messages we’re trying to tell as an institution. What sort of stories do we want to tell in the exhibit? We’re looking for good examples of how to make an impact on the world. That’s really where our focus lies.”
Some Jackson-related items remain in the museum’s direct replication of Ryan White’s bedroom.
The museum issued a statement Saturday, noting, “Ryan’s family found Michael Jackson’s kindness to them to be an important part of Ryan’s story and the pictures of Michael displayed in that exhibit will always be an integral part of the Ryan White story.”
Jackson, who visited the Children’s Museum in 1990, stood next to Jeanne White, Ryan White’s mother, during Ryan’s funeral service at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.
“Leaving Neverland” features in-depth interviews with Robson, Safechuck and their families, who allege that Jackson’s years-long abuse lasted until they were 14.
“When you learn new stories or you look at something historical in a different way, then sometimes we re-evaluate whether that’s appropriate to be (on display),” Carron said.
Jackson, who lived in Gary from birth until moving to California with his musical family at age 12, died in 2009. In 1994, he paid $25 million in an out-of-court settlement after he was accused of sexually abusing the child of a family friend.
Robson and Safechuck had previously denied that Jackson sexually abused them.
Robson testified in Jackson’s defense when the singer was the defendant in a 2005 child molestation trial. A California jury cleared Jackson of all charges.
In 2013, Robson sued the Jackson estate, alleging sexual abuse. Safechuck followed with a 2014 lawsuit. The suits were dismissed in 2017.
Contributing: USA TODAY
Follow David Lindquist on Twitter: @317Lindquist.
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