Catalogue


Who owns America's past? : the Smithsonian and the problem of history /
Robert C. Post.
imprint
Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins University Press, c2013
description
xxvi, 370 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
ISBN
1421411008 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9781421411002 (hardcover : alk. paper), a 1421411016 (electronic), a 9781421411019 (electronic)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins University Press, c2013
isbn
1421411008 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9781421411002 (hardcover : alk. paper)
a 1421411016 (electronic)
a 9781421411019 (electronic)
catalogue key
9100817
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [285]-354) and index.
A Look Inside
Reviews
Review Quotes
Post admirably provokes discussion about how an official national repository goes about presenting and interpreting its historical artifacts-a great pleasure to read.
Robert Post's study of the evolution of America's premier museum is authoritative, thorough, and engagingly written by a curatorial insider with a critical perspective. His judgment of Smithsonian controversies during the past generation is reliable and well informed, especially those concerning the history of technology. This is institutional history in the very best sense because it highlights the role of individuals as well as ideas. We also gain insight into the museum's place in national politics. A most enlightening project.
The great lacuna in historiographical accounts of the modern period is any overview of the role of the modern national museum in shaping both popular and scholarly historical presentations. While there is a modest literature in the museum studies world and a handful of dissertations, there is nothing of the scale and scope of this remarkable book. Part history, part memoir, part polemic, it is insightful, fascinating and sure to be an influential book about the history of technology and the Smithsonian Institution's role in shaping our understanding of modern American history.
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Summaries
Main Description
In 1994, when the National Air and Space Museum announced plans to display the "Enola Gay," the B-29 sent to destroy Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, the ensuing political uproar left the museum's parent Smithsonian Institution entirely unprepared. As the largest such complex in the world, the Smithsonian cares for millions of objects and has displayed everything from George Washington's sword to moon rocks to Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz." Why did this particular object arouse such controversy? From an insider's perspective, Robert C. Post's "Who Owns America's Past?" offers insight into the politics of display and the interpretation of history.Never before has a book about the Smithsonian detailed the recent and dramatic shift from collection-driven shows, with artifacts meant to speak for themselves, to concept-driven exhibitions, in which objects aim to tell a story, displayed like illustrations in a book. Even more recently, the trend is to show artifacts along with props, sound effects, and interactive elements in order to create an immersive environment. Rather than looking at history, visitors are invited to experience it. "Who Owns America's Past?" examines the different ways that the Smithsonian's exhibitions have been conceived and designed--whether to educate visitors, celebrate an important historical moment, or satisfy donor demands or partisan agendas. Post gives the reader a behind-the-scenes view of internal tempests as they brewed and how different personalities and experts passionately argued about the best way to present the story of America.
Main Description
In 1994, when the National Air and Space Museum announced plans to display the Enola Gay , the B-29 sent to destroy Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, the ensuing political uproar left the museum's parent Smithsonian Institution entirely unprepared. As the largest such complex in the world, the Smithsonian cares for millions of objects and has displayed everything from George Washington's sword to moon rocks to Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz . Why did this particular object arouse such controversy? From an insider's perspective, Robert C. Post's Who Owns America's Past? offers insight into the politics of display and the interpretation of history. Never before has a book about the Smithsonian detailed the recent and dramatic shift from collection-driven shows, with artifacts meant to speak for themselves, to concept-driven exhibitions, in which objects aim to tell a story, displayed like illustrations in a book. Even more recently, the trend is to show artifacts along with props, sound effects, and interactive elements in order to create an immersive environment. Rather than looking at history, visitors are invited to experience it. Who Owns America's Past? examines the different ways that the Smithsonian's exhibitions have been conceived and designed-whether to educate visitors, celebrate an important historical moment, or satisfy donor demands or partisan agendas. Post gives the reader a behind-the-scenes view of internal tempests as they brewed and how different personalities and experts passionately argued about the best way to present the story of America.
Main Description
In 2003, when the Smithsonian Institution announced plans to display the "Enola Gay," the B-29 used in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the ensuing political uproar caught the museum entirely unprepared. As the largest such complex in the world, the Smithsonian cares for and displays hundreds of thousands of objects and has exhibited everything from deadly weapons to taxidermic trophy animals to Dorothys ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz." Why did this particular object arouse such controversy? In " Who Owns Americas Past?," Robert C. Post, a retired curator with more than thirty years of experience, offers insight into the politics of display and the interpretation of history from an insiders perspective.Never before has a book about the Smithsonian detailed the recent and dramatic shift from collection-driven shows, in which artifacts were sparsely labeled and presented in taxonomic groupings, to concept-driven exhibitions, in which objects aim to tell a story, displayed like illustrations in a book. Even more recently, the trend is to show artifacts with props--such as sound, light, and digital elements--to create "stage sets" for an immersive environment. Rather than looking at a piece of history, visitors are invited to experience it. "Who Owns Americas Past" examines the different ways that the Smithsonians exhibitions have been conceived and designed--whether to educate visitors, celebrate an important historical moment, or satisfy donor demands or partisan agendas. Post gives the reader a behind-the-scenes view of internal tempests as they brewed and how different personalities and experts passionately argued about the best way to present the story of America.
Main Description
In 2003, when the Smithsonian Institution announced plans to display the Enola Gay , the B-29 used in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the ensuing political uproar caught the museum entirely unprepared. As the largest such complex in the world, the Smithsonian cares for and displays hundreds of thousands of objects and has exhibited everything from deadly weapons to taxidermic trophy animals to Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz . Why did this particular object arouse such controversy? In Who Owns America's Past? , Robert C. Post, a retired curator with more than thirty years of experience, offers insight into the politics of display and the interpretation of history from an insider's perspective. Never before has a book about the Smithsonian detailed the recent and dramatic shift from collection-driven shows, in which artifacts were sparsely labeled and presented in taxonomic groupings, to concept-driven exhibitions, in which objects aim to tell a story, displayed like illustrations in a book. Even more recently, the trend is to show artifacts with propssuch as sound, light, and digital elementsto create "stage sets" for an immersive environment. Rather than looking at a piece of history, visitors are invited to experience it. Who Owns America's Past examines the different ways that the Smithsonian's exhibitions have been conceived and designedwhether to educate visitors, celebrate an important historical moment, or satisfy donor demands or partisan agendas. Post gives the reader a behind-the-scenes view of internal tempests as they brewed and how different personalities and experts passionately argued about the best way to present the story of America.

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