Who Owns America's Past? The Smithsonian and the Problem of History

ISBN-10: 1421411008

ISBN-13: 9781421411002

Edition: 2013

Authors: Robert C. Post

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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 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 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.
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Book details

Copyright year: 2013
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 10/22/2013
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Size: 6.50" wide x 9.50" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.540
Language: English

Matthew W. Finkinis Albert J. Harno and Edward W. Cleary Chair in Law, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Law. He lives in Champaign.Robert C. Postis Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School. He lives in New Haven, CT.

Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
A Chain of Events Linking Past to Present
Modernization
A "Worthy Home for National Treasures
Allies and Critics
To Join in a Smithsonian Renaissance
A Special Kind of Insight
The Winged Gospel
Celebration or Education?
A Crisis of Representation
Small's World
Timely and Relevant Themes and Methods of Presentation
Epilogue: What Is the Story?
Notes
Index
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