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Museum

Histories
Brown University AMST1903I and HIST1960P
Spring 2015
Steven Lubar / Teaching Assistant Ashley Bowen-Murphy
Class: Wednesday 3:00-5:20, Nightingale-Brown House
Office Hours: Thursday 1:30-3:00 (by appointment, click here) or other times by appointment

Course Description
Museums collect and display art and artifacts not only to preserve culture heritage, but also to educate, engage,
and entertain. This course examines the history of museumsof art, history, anthropology, natural history,
science and technologyto understand their changing goals and techniques, and their changing place in
American society. It considers both the changes within museums, in the work of curation, conservation,
education, and social engagement, and the changing way that visitors used them, and the cultural work they did.
This course is a history research seminar. We will explore both the history of museums and the historiography
of the field. Students will read museum history and theory, engage with museum archives and other primary
sources. How have museums changed, and how has that change been understood and analyzed by historians?
Im also interested in applied history: how can we use our understanding of the history of museums to
understand museums today, and to shape their future? What might museums today learn from the past?
How the course works: theres a book, or several articles, to read each week, as well as several primary sources.
Theres a primary-source based blog post due each week, one research paper due sometime during the semester,
and a group project that recreates the experience of a museum visitor. Details below.

Required and Optional Texts and Materials


All of the readings for the course are available either online through Canvas, on reserve at the Brown University
Library, or for purchase at the bookstore. Canvas includes a range of supplemental readings. Additional readings
(including books and articles considered for the class but not in the syllabus) are available at my Zotero page,
The following books are available at the bookstore:

Stephen Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876-1926

Jeffrey Trask., Things American: Art Museums and Civic Culture in the Progressive Era.

Susan G. Davis, Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience

This book is available as a Kindle text:

The First Treatise on Museums: Samuel Quiccheberg's Inscriptiones, 1565 ??

The other books and articles are available either through library or on Canvas.

Course policies
Attendance: Please try to attend every class, but if there are other engagements at class time that would also be
useful to your education and professional development, its up to you to make the call on which is more likely to
be valuable. Please let me know if youre not able to make the class.
Participation: The class only works if you participate. Please read the readings, read further in areas of interest,
and come to class prepared to discuss what youve read and thought about. Participation is evaluated by the
quality of your comments. Be constructive: refer to the readings, present new information from your experience
and from outside readings, and suggest new ideas. Participation should be a dialog, building on my remarks, and
other students contributions, as part of a conversation. You should speak up when you have something to say;
in general, that should be more than once in each class. Continue the conversation beyond class, through Twitter
or other social media.
Late work and make up: I would rather see an excellent paper than a less-good one turned in on time. Exceptions
are when we are working with an outside individuals or organization or on group projects: in those cases,
meeting deadlines is essential. As long as you turn in all of your work by the end of the course youll get credit
for it. Im happy to read preliminary drafts of any assignment, or a second, improved, version. Email or come talk
to me if youd like to discuss your assignments as youre working on them, or after youve turned them in.
I have listed local museums (and some New York museums) that reflect the history well be discussing for each
week. Visits are not mandatory, but if you can visit and report back, on the blog or in class, that would be good.

Student responsibilities
Reading

Read assigned work. Note: Read strategically, to get what you need out of the book. On how to read for
graduate seminars see, for example, Miriam Sweeneys or Larry Cebulas blog posts. Explore other
material, both primary and secondary, on the topic. If you find something of interest in the footnotes to
the reading, follow up by tracking it down and reading it.

Read the class blog each week before class.

Discussion (30 percent of grade)

Participate in class discussion. Good discussion requires everyone to contribute. Come to class
prepared with interesting things to say. Listen to what other students say. Build on whats been said
before.

Participate in out-of-class discussion, online. Use Twitter (hashtag #amst1901) to call the classs
attention to interesting bits in the class reading, events, exhibits and programs, and writings and
websites that you think will be of interest.

Blog writing assignments (30 percent of grade)


By Tuesday before each class, post to the blog (http://museumhistories.wordpress.com/) a primary-
source document and a short (50-250 word) essay explaining that document and its relationship to

that weeks reading. (Do at least ten of these. Tag them appropriately so others can find them.) You can
often find primary documents by reading the footnotes of that weeks reading. For example, when
were discussing American popular museums of the mid-nineteenth century, you might post a
broadside advertising one of these museums. When were talking about John Deweys ideas on
education, you might post a page of one of his books, and write about how the ideas there influenced
museums. You can find material for this online, at Browns libraries, and by visiting local museums.
Well use these blog posts to help guide our class discussion.
Heres what makes a good blog post. The first sentence, or perhaps the first paragraph, should make it
clear what youre writing about and your point of view. Consider your audience: the main audience for
this writing is the rest of the class, so you can assume a good bit of knowledge and background. Make
an argument. Use words like I think or I suggest. Use images when possible. Be sure to give you blog
entry categories and tags. Submit the address of your blog post to Canvas each week. NOTE: the blog is
open to the public.
Well discuss some of these blog posts in class, so come prepared to talk about them. Please post the
address of the blog post on Canvas, so I can keep track of them.
One longer writing assignment (30 percent of grade)
Write a research paper, about 2000-3000 words, on any topic of interest to you and appropriate to the
class. For example: you might write a case study of a museum, either historical or contemporary, based
on research in the library or interviews; a comparative study of several museums or related
institutions; a theoretical exploration; or something else. Your paper might suggest considerations and
guidelines for museums based on historical precedents.
Heres what I think makes a good research paper: Make an argument. Connect to class readings and
discussions and to the historiography of your topic. Use primary sources.
Note: Your writing should be your original work, based on class work, your reading, experience, and
conversations. Footnote anything you use from books, articles, interviews, or the web. Note ideas that
came from other people. Failure to do so can result in failing the class. Use any footnote style you like,
but be consistent.
Im open to other formats of presentation: video, audio, websites, exhibits, whatever... Consider writing
your paper in an open, on-line format, for example Medium.
Submit your paper via Canvas. An short proposal outlining your topic and your argument is due April
10. The final paper is due May 1.
Group project: Recreate a visit to historical museum (10 percent of grade)
Using any media of your choice video, audio, web, photography, mixed media, installation recreate a
visit to a historical museum. These will be presented to the class as part of the discussion of that
museum. The group should meet with me or Ashley Bowen-Murphy to discuss this a week before the
presentation.

Class Schedule
1.

January 21: Introductions

2.

January 28: Wunderkammer and the Roots of the Modern Museum

Questions for class discussion: What was the purpose of the wunderkammer? What
did they teach? Who was the audience? How were objects used? Were they about old
or new, typical or atypical? How useful are cabinets of curiosity (and the notions of
resonance and wonder) for understanding the work of museums?
Secondary:
Stephen Greenblatt, Resonance and Wonder
Bert van de Roemer, Redressing the Balance: Levinus Vincents Wonder Theatre of
Nature, Public Domain Review
Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature : Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early
Modern Italy, Introduction and Chapter 2
Koeppe, Wolfram. Collecting for the Kunstkammer. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art
History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Take a look at the art
and artifacts at the top of the page.

Primary:
The First Treatise on Museums: Samuel Quiccheberg's Inscriptiones, 1565

3.

February 4: The invention of the modern museum

Questions for discussion: What is the relationship of these museums to the


wunderkammer and other earlier museums? Who was the public for these museums?
What kinds of categories were used here? What kinds of organization? How did they
reflect or shape contemporary thought? How might we use Bennetts arguments to
understand the relationships of knowledge, power, and social control in the museum?
How did visitors use these museums?
Secondary:
Jeffrey Abt, The Origins of the Public Museum, in Sharon MacDonald, Companion to
Museum Studies
Accessing Enlightenment Study Guide
Tony Bennett, The Exhibitionary Complex, New Formations 4, 1988

Helen Rees Leahy, Museum Bodies: The Politics and Practices of Visiting and Viewing
(Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), Chapter 1, Making a Social Body
Constance Classen, Museum Manners: The Sensory Life of the Early Museum,
Journal of Social History 40, no. 4 (2007): 895-914
Primary:
Be sure to read the primary documents in Accessing Enlightenment Study Guide and
look at the images on the related website.

4.

February 11: Early American museums

Questions for discussion: How did early museums portray the nation? The rest of the
world? Who was their audience? How were they part of the project of creating and
defining the nation? What categories did they use? Who was their audience?
Secondary:
Joel J. Orosz, Curators and Culture: The Museum Movement in America, 1740-1870
(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990), chapters 2 and 3
James M. Lindgren, `That Every Mariner May Possess the History of the World: A
Cabinet for the East India Marine..., New England Quarterly 68, no. 2 (June 1995):
179.
Patricia West, Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America's House
Museums, chapter 1
Patricia Johnston, Global Knowledge in the Early Republic: The East India Marine
Societys Curiosities Museum
David Brigham, Public Culture in the Early Republic: Peales Museum and its
Audiences, chapter 2, Peales Public Presentation of the museum
Primary
Charles Willson Peale, My Design in Forming this Museum, To the citizens of the
United States, and other broadsides online at the American Philosophical Society
Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Virtuosos Collection, Boston Miscellany, 1842
The United States Naval Lyceum, New York Times, 1852
Iconographic Catalog of the U.S. Lyceum, at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn in The US
Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, part 1
Visit
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

5.

February 18: P.T. Barnum and the Popular Museum

Questions for discussion: What was Barnums attitude toward truth? Authenticity?
Secondary:
Andrea Dennet, Weird and Wonderful, chapters 2-6
A. W. Bates, Dr Kahns Museum: Obscene Anatomy in Victorian London. Journal of
the Royal Society of Medicine 99, no. 12 (December 1, 2006): 61824
Robert Hicks, The Disturbingly Informative Mtter Museum. In Medical Museums:
Past, Present, Future, edited by Samuel J. M. M Alberti and Elizabeth Hallam, 17285.
London: Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2013.
Primary
The Autobiography of P.T. Barnum, chapters 7-10
Visit
Warren Anatomical Museum, Harvard Medical School
Ripleys Believe it or Not documentary

6.

February 25: Museums professionalize

Questions for discussion: What is the purpose of museums at the end of the 19th
century? How do they reflect changing demography? Who are the experts that shape
them, and what role do experts play?
Secondary
Steven Conn, Museums and the Late Victorian World, and From South Kensington
to the Louvre: Art Museums and the Creation of Fine Art, chapters 1 and 6 in
Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876-1926
Carol Duncan, Public Spaces, Private Interests: Municipal art museums in New York
and Chicago, chapter 3 in Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums.
Primary:
George Brown Goode, The Relationships and Responsibilities of Museums, Science,
Vol. 2, No. 34 (Aug 23, 1895), 197-209.
George Brown Goode, either Museum-History and Museums of History, The
Museums of the Future, or The Principles of Museum Administration in A
Memorial of George Brown Goode
Visitor's guide to the Smithsonian Institution and National Museum, Washington D.C,
1880


7.

March 4: Anthropology and the Worlds Fairs

Questions for discussion: What role do museums play in the development of


anthropology, and anthropology in the development of museums? How does the
public work of anthropologists and curators at worlds fairs shape their research?
What role does politics play? How do anthropologists reflect and shape empire?
Secondary:
Robert Rydell, All the Worlds a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International
Expositions, 1876-1916, Introduction and Chapter 2.
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Exhibiting Jews, Chapter 2 in Destination Culture:
Tourism, Museums, and Heritage
Steven Conn, Between Science and Art: Museums and the Development of
Anthropology, chapter 3, and Objects and American History: The Museums of
Henry Mercer and Henry Ford, chapter 5, in Museums and American Intellectual
life, 1876-1926
Mary Jo Arnoldi, From the Diorama to the Dialogic : A Century of Exhibiting Africa
at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. In Cahiers d'tudes africaines. Vol.
39, No. 155-156. 1999. pp. 701-726.
Primary
Wm. H. Dall and Franz Boas, Museums of Ethnology and Their Classification,
Science, Vol. 9, No. 228. (Jun. 17, 1887), pp. 587-589
American Museum of Natural History, New York, Hall of Northwest Coast Indians
(1900)
Read documents and look at images of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the
1893 World Columbian Exposition
Visit
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. Look for the older
exhibits, on the third floor.
American Museum of Natural History, New York, Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

8.

March 11: Natural History Museums

Questions for discussion: What role did museums play in scientific research? In
teaching science? How did that change and why? How was nature used to teach about
culture and social issues? What lesson did visitors get from natural history museums?
(Note: read Harraway before reading Schudson.)
Secondary:
Stephen Conn, "Naked Eye Science: Museums and Natural History, chapter 2 in The
Museum in American Intellectual Life
Karen A. Rader and Victoria E. M. Cain, From natural history to science: display and
the transformation of American museums of science and nature, Museum and
Society, Jul. 2008. 6(2) 152-171
Donna Harraway, Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New
York City, 1908-1936, Social Text No. 11 (Winter, 1984-1985), pp. 20-64
Michael Schudson, Paper Tigers: A Sociologist follows cultural studies into the
wilderness, Lingua Franca, August 1997
Primary:
Henry L. Ward, Modern Exhibitional Tendencies of Museums of Natural History and
Ethnology designed for public use, 1909.
Visit:
The Lost Museum installation in Rhode Island Hall; peruse jenksmuseum.org
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Roger Williams Natural History Museum.

9.

March 18: Education in the Progressive Museum

Questions for discussion: What was the educational role of the museum? What role do
artifacts play?
Secondary:
Carol G. Duncan, A Matter of Class: John Cotton Dana, Progressive Reform, and the
Newark Museum, chapter 7, The Consumer in the Museum
George Hein, Museum Education in the Progressive Era, Chapter 4 in Progressive
Museum Practice
Jeffrey Trask, Things American: Art Museums and Civic Culture in the Progressive Era,
chapters 1, 2, 5 and 6
Antoniette M Guglielmo, The Metropolitan Museum of Art as an Adjunct of Factory:
Richard F. Bach and the Resolution Between Gilmans Temple and Danas

Department Store, Curator: The Museum Journal, vol. 55, no. 2 (April 2012): 203-
214
Isabella Stewart Gardners Museum, chapter 6 in David Carrier, Museum
Skepticism
Primary:
Read something by John Cotton Dana, e.g. The New Museum, The Gloom of the
Museum, or A plan for a new Museum
Benjamin Ives Gilman, Museum ideals of purpose and method, 1918
Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer and M. G. Van Rensselaer, The Art Museum and the
Public, The North American Review, Vol. 205, No. 734 (Jan., 1917), pp. 81-92
Metropolitan Museum of Art annual reports
Visit
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.
AnnMaryBrown Memorial (use this guide)??

~~~~(spring break!)~~~~(visit museums!)~~~~~

10.

April 1: Reinventing the Art Museum

Questions for discussion: Who are art museums for? Are they museums or art or
museums of art history? How do they decide what to show? How do museums shape a
canon of art? Whats included? How does display shape the meaning of art, and how
do displays change?
Secondary
Jeffrey Trask. Things American: Art Museums and Civic Culture in the Progressive Era.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012, chapters 3, 5 and 6
Curt Germundson, Alexander Dorner's Atmosphere Room: The Museum as
Experience, Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation, 21:3, 263-
273, 2005
Neil Harris, Presenting King Tut, chapter 7 in Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the
National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience.
Primary
Visit RISD Archives to see Dorner papers
Thomas Hoving, Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

chapter 11, Harlem on my mind


Visit
RISD Museum, Worcester Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (older
wings)

11.

April 8: The History Museum Crisis

Questions for discussion: Are history museums places that reinforce traditional ideas
about history or that challenge them? What role do artifacts play in interpretation?
What role should the subjects of an exhibition play? Whats the right balance between
expert and audience interests? How to balance political, social, and cultural history?

Secondary
Gary Kulik, Designing the past: History: Museum exhibitions from Peale to the
present. In History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment, Warren Leon
and Roy Rosenzweig, eds , 1989
William Walker, A Living Exhibition, chapter 2
Andrea Witcomb, From Batavia to Australia II: negotiating change in curatorial
practice, Chapter 3 in Re-imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (2002)
Scott Magelssen, Making History in the Second Person: Post-touristic
Considerations for Living Historical Interpretation, Theatre Journal 58 (2006) 291
312
Primary
Cary Carson, The End of History Museums: Whats Plan B?, The Public Historian,
Nov. 2008
Ron Chew, Toward a More Agile Model of Exhibit Making, Museum News,
November/December 2000
John Durel and Anita Nowery Durel, A Golden Age for Historic Properties, History
News, Summer 2007
Kohn, Richard H. History and the Culture Wars: The Case of the Smithsonian
Institutions Enola Gay Exhibition. The Journal of American History 82, no. 3
(December 1, 1995): 10361063.
Some Notes on the Future of History Museums, Center for the Future of Museums
blog
Future of History Museums session at American Historical Association, 2014 (video)
Fred Wilson and Howard Halle, Mining the Museum, Grand Street No. 44 (1993),
pp. 151-172

Visit:
Museum of Work and Culture, Woonsocket, RI
Lippett House Museum, Providence
Newport Mansions, Newport, RI

~~~~NOTE: paper proposal due April 10~~~~

12.

April 15: The Experience Revolution and the Virtual Museum

Questions for discussion: Should museums be fun? How do they balance the
educational and experiential? What is their relationship with places like Disneyworld
and other themed environments?
Secondary
Hilde Heine, The Experiential Museum, Chapter 1 in Public Art: Thinking Museums
Differently
Kerstin Barndt, Fordist Nostalgia: History and Experience at The Henry Ford,
Rethinking History Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 379 410
Robinson Meyer, The Museum of the Future is Here The Atlantic Online 1/20/2015
Susan G. Davis, Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience
Primary
B. Joseph Pine and James H Gilmore, Welcome to the Experience Economy
Visit
Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York
Science Museum, Boston
Providence Childrens Museum

13.

April 22: Museums and Social Engagement

Questions for discussion: What role should museums play? Do museums have an
obligation to work for social justice? How should they redress their own troubled
history? How should they measure their results? Who are museums for?

Secondary

Richard Sandell, Museums and the Combating of Social Inequality: Roles,


Responsibilities, Resistance, in Museums, Society, Inequality, pp. 3-23
Richard Sandell, The Social Work of Museums, pp. 1-7, chapter 2-3.
Amy Lonetree, Missed Opportunities: Reflections on the NMAI, The American
Indian Quarterly, Volume 30, Number 3&4, Summer/Fall 2006, pp. 632-64
Primary
Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and related
events and explore links
Read one of these three (to be assigned in class):
American Association of Museums, Excellence and Equity (2008)
American Association of Museums, Mastering Civic Engagement: A Challenge
to Museums (2002)
Scottish Museums Council, Museums and Social Justice (2000)

14.

April 29: Real and Virtual

Questions for discussion: How does the rise of the digital change museums? How does
the use and meaning of objects change when digital surrogates are available? What is
gained and what is lost? How to archive the digital?

Secondary
Choose essays from Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine, Theorizing digital
cultural heritage: a critical discourse
Primary
G. Wayne Clough, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries and Archives in a Digital
Age
Creating a Digital Smithsonian
Smithsonian Digitization and Digital Asset Management Policy, Smithsonian Directive
610, 2011
Derby Museums Digital Engagement Strategy
labs.cooperhewitt.org
Curarium, at http://metalab.harvard.edu/2014/05/what-is-curarium/ and
http://curarium-blog.herokuapp.com/ and http://curarium.com/

Visit
Cooperhewitt.org
http://www.si.edu/Collections

~~~~Final paper due May 1~~~~