Museum Books

Weil, Robert E. A Cabinet of Curiosities: Inquiries Into Museums and Their Prospects. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.

The museum profession’s leading theorist considers the abilities of museums to survive and succeed in the future. Concentrating on the important function of the public in museums, Weil argues that American museums face an increasing challenge to demonstrate their ability to connect with an ever more diverse audience, and simultaneously withstand changes in government involvement.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Destination Culture : Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

To make themselves profitable, museums are marketing themselves as tourist attractions. To make locations into destinations, tourism is staging the world as a museum. Both promise to deliver heritage. Although heritage is marketed as something old, the author argues that heritage is actually a new mode of cultural production that revives dying ways of life, economies, and places. The techniques of display are discussed in a variety of settings: museums, festivals, world’s fairs, memorials, and tourist attractions, where the very fact that objects are collected and exhibited conveys meaning to visitors.

Dubin, Steven C. Displays of Power: Controversy in the American Museum Crom the Enola Gay to Sensation. New York and London: New York University Press, 2000.

Museums have become ground zero in America’s culture wars. The author of this title argues that museum exhibitions have always been “displays of power.” Today’s exhibits represent new issues and interests, and groups have mobilized to force their own perspective on exhibits or to prevent opposing opinions from being expressed. The book examines shows from the 1990s about ethnicity, slavery, Freud, the Old West, and the dropping of the atomic bomb by the Enola Gay.

Lubar, Steven and W. David Kingery ed. History From Things: Essays on Material Culture. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

This title explores the emerging field of material culture and demonstrates that the study of artifacts can disclose important facts about past cultures. Eighteen essays describe how to “read” artifacts, how to “listen” to landscapes and locations, and how to apply methods and theories to historical inquiry to reconstruct and reinterpret the past.

Weil, Stephen E. Making Museums Matter. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

In an environment of shrinking resources, museums must be able to make themselves matter. In this engaging collection of essays, renowned museum commentator Weil discusses just how museums can earn their keep by enriching both the individual lives and the general well-being of the communities they serve. Sections of essays are titled: “The Museum in Pursuit of Excellence,” “The Museum as Workplace,” “The Museum as Palace,” and “The Museum in the Public Sphere.” Also available in a cloth binding format.

Alexander, Edward P. The Museum in America: Innovators and Pioneers. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 1997.

Today’s museum was not born, but made. The efforts of visionary museum innovators transformed the 19th century’s collections of curios into today’s institutions of public service and education. The Museum in America recounts the colorful histories of 13 leading museum figures from the formative period around the turn of the century. For any museum professional or student interested in the history of the museum, this is the place to start.

Hein, Hilde S. The Museum in Transition: A Philosophical Perspective. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

During the past thirty years, museums of all kinds have tried to become more responsive to the interests of a diverse public by shifting from the presentation of real things to the production of experiences. With exhibitions becoming people-centered, idea-oriented, and contextualized, the boundaries between museums and the "real" world are becoming eroded, and museum professionals now admit to having a hand in the creation of reality. Design and spectacle have become central elements of display, while the integrity of the object, once the focal point of museum exhibition, ultimately has given way to more interpretive devices. Setting the transition from object-centered to story-centered exhibitions in a philosophical framework, Hein contends that glorifying the museum experience at the expense of objects deflects the museum's educative, ethical, and aesthetic roles. Referring to institutions ranging from art museums to theme parks, she shows how deployment has replaced amassing as a goal and discusses how museums now actively shape and create values. She is critical of the dominating influence on all museums of an aesthetic of art works in art museums and proposes a more integrative museum aesthetic. Suggesting that the current emphasis on experience and multiple perspectives may be replacing an old monolithic value with a new one, Hein urges museums to amplify and sharpen their distinctions from one another. She argues that rather than striving to be all-inclusive, they should render more poignant, more precise, and more precious the magnitude of their audiences differences and the multitude of its agreements.

Luke, Timothy W. Museum Politics: Power Plays at the Exhibition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

The past decade has witnessed a series of unusually acrimonious debates about the social, political, and moral implications of museum exhibitions as varied as the Enola Gay display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The author explores museums’ power to shape collective values and social understandings and the processes through which museums challenge but often affirm key cultural and social realities.

Weil, Stephen E. Museums For the New Millenium. Washington: American Association of Museums/ Center for Museum Studies, Smithsonian Institution, 1997.

The complete proceedings of the landmark symposium sponsored in September 1996 by the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Museum Studies. Museum professionals from the U.S. and abroad explore the implications of radical social, economic, technological, and political change on the nature and structure of museums. Includes keynote addresses, breakout-session transcripts, bibliography, index, and more.

Sandell, Richard ed. Museums, Society, Inequality. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Museums, Society, Inequality explores the wide-ranging social roles and responsibilities of the museum. It brings together diverse international perspectives from across the globe, which collectively seek to stimulate critical debate, to inform the work of practitioners and policy makers, and to advance recognition of the agency of museums. This unusual collection gives valuable insight on the museum’s relationship to the outside community, and its essential role as a social institution that influences, and must respond to, the changing characteristics and concerns of society.

Rosenzweig, Roy and David Thelen eds. The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

In a sweeping survey conducted over nearly a decade, the authors asked 1,500 Americans about their connection to the past. They found that, while textbook history leaves many people cold, the past is neither distant nor insignificant to Americans; rather, it is a pervasive part of their lives that provides a foundation for understanding the present and the future. The ways in which people use their personal, family, and national stories have profound implications for anyone involved in researching or presenting history.

Carr, David. Promise of Cultural Institutions, The. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press/ American Association for State & Local History, 2003.

This thought-provoking collection of essays is essential reading for anyone who cares about cultural institutions and their role in the community of learners. These institutions--often museums or libraries--have the power to profoundly alter our sense of ourselves and of the world around us, but that power carries with it obligations. David Carr challenges us to contemplate both the effects and the responsibilities, to examine carefully the nuances of these experiences. Yet a visit to a cultural institution is itself only one act in the broader activity of learning throughout our lives. Carr has much to say about the experience of learning in its best sense and thus speaks not only to lovers of cultural institutions, but also to lovers of learning everywhere.

Kurin, Richard. Reflections of a Culture Broker: A View From the Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.

Is culture brokered like stocks, real estate, or marriage? The author of this book contends that culture is indeed mediated and brokered by countries, communities, and organizations. “Culture brokers,” including museum professionals, filmmakers, journalists, and scholars, will find this title invaluable for understanding the relationship between knowledge, art, politics, and entertainment. Case studies of several Smithsonian exhibits illustrate the ethical and technical problems faced by anyone charged with representing culture in a public forum.

Boswell, David and Jessica Evans eds. Representing the Nation: A Reader: Histories, Heritage and Museums. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Despite assertions that we are living in a period of globalization, there has been a resurgence of nationalism and regionalism around the world. This title is intended to discuss the role that cultural institutions play in developing senses of national identity. Leaders from the fields of cultural studies, museum studies, sociology, and cultural history examine ways that national pasts are preserved, presented, and consumed in museums worldwide.

Weil, Stephen E. Rethinking the Museum and Other Meditations. Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.

In these 19 insightful and frequently witty meditations, Stephen E. Weil examines the purposes and functions of the museum in the late 20th century, proposing museums make more central to their operation encounters with a variety of visitors.

Phillips, Ruth B. and Christopher B. Steiner eds. Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

This book considers the explosive consequences of global commerce and tourism on the arts of North America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania from the 18th century to the present. The essays contained in this title raise important questions about how objects acquire value and meaning in trans-cultural exchange. A study of the production and consumption of art, it discusses the issues of authenticity, the social legitimacy of aesthetic traditions, and the struggle for self-representation and identity.

Archives Books

Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

An extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology—fruitfully occasioned by a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving. Intrigued by the evocative relationship between technologies of inscription and psychic processes, Derrida offers for the first time a major statement on the pervasive impact of electronic media, particularly e-mail, which threaten to transform the entire public and private space of humanity.

Steedman, Carolyn. Dust: The Archive and Cultural History. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

An original—and sometimes irreverent—investigation into how modern historiography has developed. The author has produced a sustained argument about the way in which history writing belongs to the currents of thought shaping the modern world. She begins by asserting that in recent years much attention has been paid to the archive by those working in the humanities and social sciences; she calls this practice "archivization." By definition, the archive is the repository of "that which will not go away," and the book goes on to suggest that, just like dust, the "matter of history" can never go away or be erased.

McCrank, Lawrence J. Historical Information Science: An Emerging Unidiscipline. Medford, N.J.: Information Today, 2001.

Here is an extensive review and bibliographic essay, backed by 5,000 citations, about developments in information technology since the advent of personal computing and the convergence of the disciplines. Its focus is on the access, preservation, and analysis of historical information (primarily in electronic form), and the relationships between new methodology and instructional media, technique, and research trends in library special collections, digital libraries, electronic and data archives, and museums.

Chandler Jr., Alfred D. and James W. Cortada eds. A Nation Transformed By Information: How Information Has Shaped the United States From Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

This book makes the startling case that North Americans were getting on the “information highway” as early as the 1700s, and have been using it as a critical building block of their social, economic, and political world ever since.

Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. The Social Life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000.

In this paperback edition--featuring an all new preface—the authors dispel many of the futurists' sweeping predictions that information technology will obliterate the need for everything from travel to supermarkets to business organizations to social life itself. A new preface updates and expands on the ideas of the original text, in which the authors argue that the gap between digerati hype and end-user gloom is largely due to the "tunnel vision" that information-driven technologies breed. This book shows how a better understanding of the contribution that communities, organizations, and institutions make to learning, working, and innovating can lead to the richest possible use of technology in our work and everyday lives.

Cook, Terry and Gordon Dodds ed. Imagining Archives: Essays and Reflections by Hugh A.Taylor. Chicago: Scarecrow Press, Inc., Association of Canadian Archivists & Society of American Archivists, 2003.

Hugh A. Taylor is one of the most important thinkers in the world of archives. He was an archivist in England for nearly 15 years before moving to Canada and continuing his career in 1965. The 15 essays in this volume, written between 1969 and 1997, are presented in chronological order so readers can appreciate the broadening evolution and rich interconnections in Taylor's thought, and each concludes with an additional reflection written in 2000.
Also features two original essays by Terry Cook (visiting professor in the postgraduate archival studies program at the University of Manitoba and a Fellow of SAA) and Gordon Dodds (who has worked at the Archives of Ontario, National Archives of Canada, and Archives of Manitoba).


Misc Books

MacLean, Margaret and Ben H. Davis eds. Time and Bits: Managing Digital Continuity. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 1999.

What are the long-term implications of relying on current digital technology to preserve our cultural memory? This is the question that framed a recent symposium at the Getty Center, where pioneers from industry, entertainment, and digital information focused on the critical issue of the fragility of digital media and how dependent we have become on it. This volume, which includes the proceedings from discussions at the meeting along with several chapters on our reliance on digital media, promotes the debate and resolution of these problems.
Contributors include Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog and founder of the Long Now Foundation, which collaborated on the meeting; musician and artist Brian Eno; Kevin Kelly, senior editor of Wired Magazine; Danny Hillis, Vice President of Disney, Howard Besser, and others involved in digital technology, conservation, and reference. Also included is a listing of digital preservation resources on the Internet.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly and Rick E. Robinson. The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter. Malibu: Getty Center for Education in the Arts, 1990.

What is the nature of the aesthetic experience? Is it possible to facilitate its occurrence? This book focuses on the psychology of the aesthetic experience and on the perception and understanding of art, suggesting ways to raise levels of visual literacy and enhance artistic enjoyment. The findings will be of importance not only to museum professionals and arts educators but also to psychologists and those interested in the nature of the aesthetic experience.

Bakewell, Elizabeth, William O. Beeman, Carol McMichael Reese, and Marilyn Schmitt eds. Object, Image, Inquiry: The Art Historian at Work. Santa Monica: Getty Art History Information Program, 1988.

This study provides insights into the world of scholarship and the methods of art historians, along with case studies and penetrating interviews.

Arnheim, Rudolf. Thoughts on Art Education. Los Angeles: Getty Center for Education in The Arts, 1990.

In this volume, based upon his forty years of teaching and research, internationally noted psychologist and art educator Rudolf Arnheim summarizes his ideas and insights about art education. Dr. Arnheim has dedicated his scholarly efforts to studies of the development of visual perceptual skills in children. Arnheim's incisive view of what humans do to create art and what art does to create humans provides new insights into human growth and the value of art in society.

Mintz, Ann and Selma Thomas eds. The Virtual & The Real: Media in the Museum. Washington: American Association of Museums, 1998.

Media—the confluence of words, images, and sounds primarily through film, video, and interactive computer technology—are an increasingly popular presence in museums. But what are the effects upon the visitor and the museum itself? Experts discuss the philosophy, use, and misuse of media, both from within the museum—the professional’s perspective—and from without—the media producer’s viewpoint. Specific examples help directors, curators, designers, producers, and others to choose media options for their own institutions.