Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian

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In this lavishly illustrated guide to the Smithsonian is National Museum of American History, Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick tell the stories of behind more than two hundred representative objects, many of them never before photographed for publication. These stories not only reveal what America as a nation has decided to save and why but also speak to changing visions of national identity.
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Overview

In this lavishly illustrated guide to the Smithsonian is National Museum of American History, Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick tell the stories of behind more than two hundred representative objects, many of them never before photographed for publication. These stories not only reveal what America as a nation has decided to save and why but also speak to changing visions of national identity.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This is a beautifully illustrated guide to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Through the stories behind more than 200 representative objects many not photographed previously for publication Lubar and Kendrick, both affiliated with the Smithsonian, propose to answer the question, "What do [the museum's] vast collections tell Americans about themselves?" Although popularly dubbed "the nation's attic," the museum houses items carefully selected by curators to reveal our national identity. Until recently, that history was told from the dominant perspective of white, mostly male Americans. However, say the authors, "objects collected to tell one story can tell another indeed, many others." Thus, by examining the kinds of artifacts collected, as well as debates over what is accessed, this volume illuminates historical attitudes about entitlement among the privileged, and about the ensuing struggles for power and recognition by the excluded. The eclectic collage of artifacts ranges from the curious (an 1860s phrenology model used to decipher personality and behavior) to the provocative (the uniform of a WWI woman contract-surgeon). Elegant acquisitions, such as first ladies' inaugural gowns, are preserved along with the mundane (the Veg-O-Matic) and popular culture (Archie and Edith Bunkers' chairs), as well as scientific and technological advances. In every case, stories are the key elements that transform each specimen into a legacy worth preserving. Moreover, the layers and complexities of underlying stories allow new levels of meaning to emerge, as views of history change. The book explores much about how we see ourselves, and how we, at this point in time, fit into thecontinuum of history. 240 color and 20 b&w photographs, (Sept.) Forecast: Legacies will also be a virtual exhibit on the Web at www.smithsonianlegacies.si.edu, which will launch on Sept. 20. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Described as a history of history, this book explores the background and meaning of the artifact collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Lubar (InfoCulture), chair of the museum's division of history and technology, and Kendrick, assistant curator of the Star-Spangled Banner Project, present a telling and thoughtful explanation of the evolving manner of interpretation and exhibition and of the complex task of using the relics to shape a national identity. The authors also examine the value of the relics, describe the context and juxtaposition of their exhibition, present a historical summary of synoptic and geographic display, and contemplate the museum's changing reflection of the nation's heritage. Handsomely illustrated with photographs of over 250 relics, this is an enlightening story of how the museum's artifacts reflect "what Americans have valued, whom we have honored, how we have related the past to the present, and how we have seen ourselves as a nation." Highly recommended for all public libraries with cultural or travel collections. John E. Hodgkins, Yarmouth, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560988649
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 10/17/2001
  • Pages: 256

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