Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You

Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You

by Harriet Baskas
     
 

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While there are more than 15,000 museums in our country, visitors get to see only about five percent of any institution's collections. Most museums simply don't have room to display everything they've got. However, there are a wide variety of surprising and intriguing reasons that, for example, the Smithsonian Institution doesn't display its collection of condoms,

Overview

While there are more than 15,000 museums in our country, visitors get to see only about five percent of any institution's collections. Most museums simply don't have room to display everything they've got. However, there are a wide variety of surprising and intriguing reasons that, for example, the Smithsonian Institution doesn't display its collection of condoms, Florida's Lightner Museum locks up all but one of its shrunken heads, and a world-class stash of Japanese erotica (shunga) art was kept in the Honolulu Museum of Art's storage until only recently. Each item or collection included in this volume is described and placed in context with stories and interviews that explore the historical, social, cultural, political, environmental, or other circumstances that led to keeping that object or group of objects out of public view—the ultimate museum buff's voyeuristic experience. Color photographs of the artifacts are included.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
Though the U.S. has over 15,000 museums, visitors only see an estimated 5–10% percent of their holdings at any given time. The primary reason is lack of space, and the fact that some items are too old or too delicate to display. Radio producer Baskas distills her radio series Hidden Museum Treasures into stories about 50 strange items you’ll never get to see and the surprising reasons why. Some artifacts, like one of Pink Floyd’s giant inflatable pigs housed at Cleveland, Ohio’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum are simply too big to display, while others, like Marie Curie’s radium and a Taoist statue made from a highly toxic form of arsenic, are too dangerous. Then there are the oddities: the 612 “time capsules” containing ephemera that Andy Warhol collected and the glass coffin housed at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. Yes, there are mummified thumbs and anatomical artifacts, but gruesome items are in the minority. Baskas prefers to focus on quirky items with cultural significance (artifacts related to 9/11 at the TSA Museum) or those with a good story behind them (a slice of 150-year-old wedding cake from Tom Thumb’s wedding at the P.T. Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn.). The result makes for entertaining reading that’s surprisingly informative; armchair librarians and archivists will be delighted. Full-color illus. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"One of the great myths of the museum world is that we should perpetually strive to put as much of our collections on show for as long as we can. My sense instead is that one of the most important roles of the museum is precisely the opposite: namely to keep safe material that is off display and at rest, so that it can then be rediscovered and reinterpreted afresh when it has had a chance, if you like, to recharge it batteries."Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programs at the Wellcome Collection in London

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762780471
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
09/08/2013
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
453,733
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.30(d)

Meet the Author

Harriet Baskas is an award-winning radio producer with a Masters in Communication from the University of Washington. Her radio series include Henrietta's Holiday: Portraits of Unusual Museums and the Hidden Treasures Radio Project. Both 26-part series explored museum collections around the country and were featured on National Public Radio and various national radio programs. She also maintains the StuckatTheAirport.com website and is the author of three Globe Pequot titles (Washington Curiosities, Washington Icons and Oregon Curiosities). Her previous books include Stuck at the Airport (Fireside,2001) and Museums of the Northwest (Sasquatch Books, 1999).

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