Do Museums Still Need Objects?

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University of Pennsylvania Press, Nov 24, 2010 - History - 272 pages
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"We live in a museum age," writes Steven Conn in Do Museums Still Need Objects? And indeed, at the turn of the twenty-first century, more people are visiting museums than ever before. There are now over 17,500 accredited museums in the United States, averaging approximately 865 million visits a year, more than two million visits a day. New museums have proliferated across the cultural landscape even as older ones have undergone transformational additions: from the Museum of Modern Art and the Morgan in New York to the High in Atlanta and the Getty in Los Angeles. If the golden age of museum-building came a century ago, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, and others were created, then it is fair to say that in the last generation we have witnessed a second golden age.

By closely observing the cultural, intellectual, and political roles that museums play in contemporary society, while also delving deeply into their institutional histories, historian Steven Conn demonstrates that museums are no longer seen simply as houses for collections of objects. Conn ranges across a wide variety of museum types—from art and anthropology to science and commercial museums—asking questions about the relationship between museums and knowledge, about the connection between culture and politics, about the role of museums in representing non-Western societies, and about public institutions and the changing nature of their constituencies. Elegantly written and deeply researched, Do Museums Still Need Objects? is essential reading for historians, museum professionals, and those who love to visit museums.

 

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Contents

Thinking about Museums
1
Chapter 1 Do Museums Still Need Objects?
20
Chapter 2 Whose Objects? Whose Culture? The Contexts of Repatriation
58
Chapter 3 Where Is the East?
86
Chapter 4 Where Have All the GrownUps Gone?
138
Chapter 5 The Birth and the Death of a Museum
172
Chapter 6 Museums Public Space and Civic Identity
197
Notes
233
Index
257
Acknowledgments
261
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Steven Conn is the author of Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living with the Presence of the Past, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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