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Useful Objects

Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America

Reed Gochberg

Useful Objects

Useful Objects

Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America

Useful Objects

 

Useful Objects examines the cultural history of nineteenth-century American museums through the eyes of writers, visitors, and collectors. Throughout this period, museums gradually transformed from encyclopedic cabinets to more specialized public institutions.


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Beschrijving Useful Objects

Useful Objects examines the history of American museums during the nineteenth century through the eyes of visitors, writers, and collectors. Museums of this period included a wide range of objects, from botanical and zoological specimens to antiquarian artifacts and technological models. Intended to promote “useful knowledge,” these collections generated broader discussions about how objects were selected, preserved, and classified. In guidebooks
and periodicals, visitors described their experiences within museum galleries and marveled at the objects they encountered. In fiction, essays, and poems, writers embraced the imaginative possibilities represented by collections and proposed alternative systems of arrangement. These conversations interrogated many
aspects of American culture, raising deep questions about how objects are interpreted—and who gets to decide their value.

Combining literary criticism, the history of science, and museum studies, Useful Objects examines the dynamic and often fraught debates that emerged during a crucial period in the history of museums by drawing on a wide range of archival materials and accounts in fiction, guidebooks, and periodicals. As museums gradually transformed from encyclopedic cabinets to more specialized public institutions, many writers, including J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Jane Johnston
Schoolcraft, William Wells Brown, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau, questioned who would have access to collections and the authority to interpret them. Throughout this period, they considered loss and preservation, raised concerns about the place of new ideas, and resisted increasingly fixed categories. Their
reflections shaped broader debates about the scope and purpose of museums in American culture that continue to resonate today.


ISBN
9780197553480
Pagina's
224
Verschenen
NUR
615
Druk
1
Uitvoering
Hardback
Taal
Engels
Uitgever
OUP USA

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