It's not that I don't love a good hat or a good museum exhibition. But what exactly makes this hat worthy of exhibition? I admit, it is slightly Koonsian in its oversized exuberance and slightly Hirstian with the many crystals embedded in the bow. But it certainly doesn't qualify as a work of milliner mastery.
The other option—certainly a valid one—is that the hat belongs atop of museum mannequin for it witnessed the first African American president being sworn in atop the head of the Queen of Soul. I only partly buy that. Include Aretha's hat and what makes you think that the Smithsonian archives won't be filled with, say, Sen. Joe Lieberman's shmoe-y baseball cap, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's red felt beret or Justice Samuel Alito's silly black ear warmers? Certainly they too can place a similar claim of putting their hands on the arc of history. For that matter, perhaps the Smithsonian would be interested in the Barnes & Noble mug out of which I drank lukewarm coffee whilst watching the inauguration. There's even some historic coffee dried to the inside (I didn't do the dishes in the name of history.)
The point is, or rather the question is, what does one get out of seeing Aretha's hat on display? Does it bring us closer to something or is it simply a fetishization of a historical moment, an enshrouding in felt-and-crystal of a cold fleeting morning?