Notorious RBG: Los Angeles Museum Exhibit Celebrates Trailblazing Supreme Court Justice

Notorious RBG: Los Angeles Museum Exhibit Celebrates Career of Trailblazing Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgA new exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles explores the life and legal career of iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” which coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Justice Ginsburg’s appointment to the nation’s highest court, is on display until March 10, 2019.

The exhibit is based on the wildly popular Tumblr blog developed by Shana Knizhnik when she was a law student at NYU School of Law. The blog began in tribute to Justice Ginsburg’s fiery dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, a voting rights case in which a conservative majority struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Initially featuring humorous comparisons between Justice Ginsburg and rapper Notorious B.I.G. (both were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York), the Tumblr went on to become something of an Internet phenomenon, spawning countless memes celebrating Justice Ginsburg as a feminist icon and garnering the attention (and amusement) of Justice Ginsburg herself. Eventually, the blog was adopted into a New York Times best-selling book co-authored by Knizhnik and journalist Irin Carmon.

The co-authors created the museum exhibit in partnership with curators at the Skirball Cultural Center. It is highly interactive, with many of the items on display in immersive environments designed to invoke key moments in the Justice’s early life, education, and legal career. At the start of the exhibit, attendees are invited to step into a recreation of the living room in the Brooklyn row house where Justice Ginsburg grew up. Family photos and writings are featured there, and one of Justice Ginsburg’s favorite operas plays from an antique radio. There is also a vintage kitchen where museum guests can learn about Justice Ginsburg’s late husband Marty’s love of cooking (and his tradition of baking birthday cakes for all of the other Supreme Court Justices). Perhaps most fun is the collection of different jabots (the ornamental collars which Justice Ginsburg often wears) and robes which exhibit visitors can try on for photoshoots in a recreation of her seat on the Supreme Court bench.

In addition to these engaging vignettes, the exhibit includes a detailed history of some of Justice Ginsburg’s early legal cases that paved the way for her landmark Supreme Court opinions on issues such as abortion, equal pay, workplace discrimination, and voting rights. This showcases just how forward-thinking Justice Ginsburg was in her early legal career — her ability to recognize the potential for cases to become precedential was truly remarkable. Attendees also have the opportunity to listen to snippets of oral arguments before the court and read about Justice Ginsburg’s role in cases including Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (a key case about pay discrimination in the workplace), Bush v. Gore (which decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential election), United States v. Virginia (striking down a long-standing male-only admission policy at the Virginia Military Institute), and Obergefell v. Hodges (the case which granted same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states).

Against the backdrop of the contentious recent confirmation hearings for newly-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which centered on whether the Justice sexually assaulted a woman while both were in high school, the exhibit seems especially timely. As the exhibit points out, Justice Ginsburg once famously said that there will only be enough women on the court “when there are nine.” The exhibit celebrates Justice Ginsburg’s critical role in the decades-long struggle for equality for women in America and how she has paved the way for women in the legal profession. One standout piece on display is a note from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Justice Ginsburg on the occasion of her first opinion as a newly appointed Justice. In the note, Justice O’Connor welcomed Justice Ginsburg to the bench and congratulated her on becoming only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court (O’Connor was the first). This tradition is one that Justice Ginsburg carried on when Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were appointed to the Court in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

By exploring briefs, writings, artwork, and other mementos relating to Justice Ginsburg, exhibit attendees are left with a sense of just how important the Supreme Court is in shaping the American way of life and what a pivotal role Justice Ginsburg has played in the institution. If you’re in the Los Angeles area between now and March 10, 2019, the exhibit is a must-see. Access is included with admission to the museum, which are discounted to just $9 for full-time students with their student ID. Docent-led tours are also available at specific times. This would be the perfect outing during your law school winter break or weekend adventure with a fellow lawyer friend.


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