"A signal contribution to the 'culture wars,' Dubin dispassionately examines the contemporary American museum as a battleground for the control of expression where elitist and populist camps clash over politically sensitive art. . . . His provocative study gives voice to curators and partisans on all points of the spectrum, making his book something of a lively free-for-all. . . . Cogently demonstrates that modern museums are crucibles for change rather than pleasant refuges, and that they are expanding the public's awareness that we live in an increasingly multicultural society and a multinational world."
- Publishers Weekly
"Displays of Power is contentious, irreverent, and entertaining, but it is also absolutely serious. . . . Is the book useful or intimidating? Is it a cautionary tale or a diatribe against museum complacency? I believe that it is all of these things. . . . A cautionary tale told boisterously and wittily."
- Museum News
"A lively and insightful new book. . . . Using an evenhanded journalistic approach and remarkably revealing interviews, Dubin documents how the institutions, run by idealistic and politically naive curators and exploited by conservative opponents, were marred by allowing minor conflicts to blow up into front-page stories. . . . Show[s] that while museum may be adept at producing spectacular displays of propaganda, they are often incapable of predicting the reactions of their audiences."
"Fascinating. . . Walking the fine line of consultation versus freedom of thought is an issue for every curator, every director. If this book is not on your shelf you are missing one of the key maps to the territory in which you travel."
- Museum National , Aug. 2001
"Dubin's book thoughtfully examines all facets of the Brooklyn confrontation without assigning blame. Instead, he gives us a case study that we can learn from."
Fascinating....Walking the fine line of consultation versus freedom of thought is an issue for every curator, every director. If this book is not on your shelf you are missing one of the key maps to the territory in which you travel.
In his lively and insightful new book, sociologist Steven C. Dubin
shows a consistent pattern of bumbling in four major museum battles
between 1991 and 1998. Using an evenhanded journalistic approach and
remarkably revealing interviews, Dubin documents how the institutions,
run by idealistic and politically naïve curators and exploited by
conservative opponents, were marred by allowing minor conflicts to
blow up into front-page stories. . . . Adds immeasurably to the
growing literature exploring the way museums function
In recent years, critics have focused on the role of museum exhibitions as active rather than neutral elements in our cultural debates. Among countless examples, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial come to mind. Dubin (sociology, SUNY at Purchase; Arresting Images, LJ 9/15/92) turns his attention to controversial museum shows, four from the 1990s and one from 1968. These exhibitions demonstrate, contends Dubin, that museums can no longer insulate themselves from our increasingly politicized cultural environment. The book is well documented by Dubin's many interviews and references to other writings about these exhibitions, but despite his fine grasp of the importance of the displays, Dubin takes a basically ahistorical approach to his topic. Although the treatment of the Smithsonian's "The West as America" exhibit (1991) is adequate, for example, putting it in the context of the Wild West shows of a century ago could have enriched the text. The same could be said about the enduring popular debate over portrayal of the Civil War and related history. Nontheless, this is recommended for larger public and academic collections.--Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.