John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage (sponsor)
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 museums--of art, history, anthropology, natural history, science and technology--to 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? I'm 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: there's a book, or several articles, to read each week, as well as several primary sources. There's 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.