The Making and Unmaking of a University Museum: The McCord, 1921-1996

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 2000 - Art - 224 pages
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Museums and cultural institutions across North America and Europe are being transformed by budget cuts, re-evaluation of their cultural missions, evolving concepts of museology, and changing audiences, making Brian Young's trenchant history of a prestigious university museum, Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History, especially pertinent. In The Making and Unmaking of a University Museum Young elucidates the relationship between museums and communities by examining the nineteenth-century social context of the family who bequeathed their collection to McGill University and the collection's fate in an academic institution. Tracing the museum's history from its founding by David Ross McCord, he emphasizes the centrality of elite women to the culture of the museum and its survival in the twentieth century, the museum's importance as the collective memory of Montreal's English-speaking elite, and the difficulty academic historians have had in dealing with material history. He recounts a sorry tale of mismatched institutional and intellectual cultures that culminated in the university's transfer of custodial responsibility to a corporate museum board and the collapse of the museum's central research and conservation mandates. The Making and Unmaking of a University Museum reveals the complex and often conflicting relationships between private collectors, curators, museum and university officials, volunteers, researchers, philanthropic foundations, the state, and the public. It shows how the makeup, interests, and perspectives of these groups have changed over the course of the century, leading to the current crisis in which many museums are forced to function according to a corporate culture in which the dictates of audience size, marketing, and public relations experts dominate the priorities of curators and collections, the needs of scholars and students, and the interests of communities. Young exposes the present-day conflict between cultural institutions operating ahistorically and often without any social vision and a public demanding greater help in understanding the past. It will be of interest to everyone who cares about culture, museums, and public memory.
 

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Contents

Making History 17601907
16
The McCord Family Tree
17
View of Montreal 1840
24
David Ross McCord and Letitia Chambers
30
Establishing Provenance
38
Redpath Museum 1925
45
William Dawson
53
Making a Museum 190855
55
H Noel Fieldhouse 1966
67
Alice Johannsen
75
Womens Culture in the Museum 192175
80
Eleanor Birnie Davidson and Porcelain Tea Set c 1800
85
Native Headdress and Costume Exhibition c 1920s
91
Isabel Dobell Mrs Walter Stewart and Beatrice Molson
98
A 1Public 1Museum 1970s and 1980s
112
Missed Connections 198796
148

The Wolfe Room 1927
61

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McGill University

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