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Celebrates the resilience of American cultural institutions in the face of national crises and challengesOn an afternoon in January 1865, a roaring fire swept through the Smithsonian Institution. Dazed soldiers and worried citizens could only watch as the flames engulfed the museum's castle. Rare objects and valuable paintings were destroyed. The flames at the Smithsonian were not the first--and certainly would not be the last-- disaster to upend a museum in the United States. Beset by challenges ranging from pandemic and war to fire and economic uncertainty, museums have sought ways to emerge from crisis periods stronger than before, occasionally carving important new paths forward in the process. The Museum explores the concepts of "crisis" as it relates to museums, and how these historic institutions have dealt with challenges ranging from depression and war to pandemic and philosophical uncertainty. Fires, floods, and hurricanes have all upended museum plans and forced people to ask difficult questions about American cultural life. With chapters exploring World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the 1970 Art Strike in New York City, and recent controversies in American museums, this book takes a new approach to understanding museum history. By diving deeper into the changes that emerged from these key challenges, Samuel J. Redman argues that cultural institutions can--and should-- use their history to prepare for challenges and solidify their identity going forward. A captivating examination of crisis moments in US museum history from the early years of the twentieth century to the present day, The Museum offers inspiration in the resilience and longevity of America's most prized cultural institutions.
About the Author
Samuel J. Redman is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums and Prophets and Ghosts: The Story of Salvage Anthropology.