Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian

8 Nov

Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian

Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: B00J6Y99SK

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Smithsonian Institution has been America's museum since 1846. What do its vast collections -- from the ruby slippers to a piece of Plymouth Rock, first ladies' gowns to patchwork quilts, a Model T Ford to a customized Ford LTD low rider -- tell Americans about themselves? In this lavishly illustrated guide to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick tell the stories behind more than 250 of the museum's treasures, many of them never before photographed for publication. These stories not only reveal what America as a nation has decided to save and why but also speak to changing visions of national identity.

As the authors demonstrate, views of history change over time, methods of historical investigation evolve and improve, and America's understanding of the past matures. Shifts in focus and attitude lie at the hearth of Legacies, which is organized around four concepts of what a national museum of history can be: a treasure house, a shrine to the famous, a palace of progress, and a mirror of the nation. Thus, the museum collects cherished or precious objects, houses celebrity memorabilia, documents technological advances, and reflects visitors' own lives. Taking examples from science and technology, politics, decorative arts, military history, ethnic heritage, popular culture and everyday life, the authors provide historical context for the work of the Smithsonian and shed new light on what is important, and who is included, in American history. Throughout its history, Lubar and Kendrick conclude, the museum has played a vital role in both shaping and reflecting America's sense of itself as a nation.

From the Hardcover edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

according to the economist Adam Smith, “has two different meanings.… [It] sometimes expresses the utility of some particular object and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys.” Although both kinds of value overlap and influence the other, exchange value is the dealers’ bottom line, while museums are more interested in intrinsic and utilitarian value. What are objects worth, not in exchange for other objects but as themselves?9 Economists explain

visiting scholars, and other museum professionals. Among many others who shared their experiences and expertise with us, we wish to thank Richard E. Ahlborn, David K. Allison, Joan Boudreau, Dwight Blocker Bowers, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Judy M. Chelnick, Spencer R. Crew, Michelle Delaney, Richard Doty, Bernard Finn, John Fleckner, Kate Fleming, Shelly Foote, Barbara Franco, Robert Friedel, James B. Gardner, Kathleen Golden, Patricia Gossel, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Rayna Green, Briann Greenfield, Kate

visiting scholars, and other museum professionals. Among many others who shared their experiences and expertise with us, we wish to thank Richard E. Ahlborn, David K. Allison, Joan Boudreau, Dwight Blocker Bowers, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Judy M. Chelnick, Spencer R. Crew, Michelle Delaney, Richard Doty, Bernard Finn, John Fleckner, Kate Fleming, Shelly Foote, Barbara Franco, Robert Friedel, James B. Gardner, Kathleen Golden, Patricia Gossel, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Rayna Green, Briann Greenfield, Kate

scientists to study, although Secretary Henry might have preferred it that way. The U.S. National Museum was established as a part of the Smithsonian in 1858 to organize collections and display them for the public. And during the second half of the nineteenth century plenty of collections were coming in. Objects brought back by government exploring expeditions—not just flora and fauna but also tools, weapons, and cultural artifacts of indigenous peoples—were transferred to the Smithsonian’s care.

feelings. A jersey worn by a member of the U.S. hockey team in the 1980 Olympics is a souvenir of the “miracle on ice” victory over the Russian team, a victory that inspired a massive surge of patriotism among Americans at a time of heightened international tensions. But in daily life, in the places where Americans live, work, and play, national identity often merges, overlaps, and interacts with many other kinds of identities. Objects that reflect the interplay among individual, community, and

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