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Defining the Modern Museum

Defining the Modern Museum: A Case Study of the Challenges of Exchange

Series: Cultural Spaces
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Defining the Modern Museum
    Book Description:

    Shedding light on many topics of current interest, especially the commodification and globalization of museums, this study makes a lively contribution to museum studies and cultural studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6054-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: The Impossible Museum
    (pp. 3-21)

    The modern museum does not exist. It is a mythical entity that has never been achieved. The museum cannot be situated in a single location or explained with reference to a linear, historical narrative, but it remains a powerful idea. Since the late nineteenth century, educators, reformers, collectors, curators, scholars, and patrons, among many others, have imagined the perfect museum, attempting to define it. The impossibility of realizing their goal may have motivated its continual pursuit. The plans of museum builders have sometimes existed in a fleeting manner on paper or in words, or have taken a more concrete form...

  6. Chapter One Exchanging Values in the Nineteenth-Century Museum Marketplace
    (pp. 22-47)

    Every year scholars and tourists from around the world visit New Brunswick to explore its geological formations, especially those dating from the Devonian and Cambrian periods. In 1997, an international research team led by Dr Randall Miller, curator of geology and paleontology at the New Brunswick Museum, discovered a 409-million-year-old shark fossil (Doliodus prolematicus), the oldest in the world, in the Devonian-age rocks of northern New Brunswick.¹ Miller has also provided educational tours to amateurs, taking them to the Fern Ledges, a fossil-rich area of black shale and sandstone stretching along the Bay of Fundy near Saint John.² In keeping...

  7. Chapter Two Learning to See: Vision, Visuality, and Material Culture, 1862–1929
    (pp. 48-70)

    Visual perception might seem to be a strictly natural process, and yet it has a history. Scholars from a range of disciplines now study visuality, moving beyond biological understandings of vision to examine historically and culturally specific ways of seeing the world. Art historian Hal Foster encourages the investigation of ʹhow we see, how we are able, allowed or made to see, and how we see this seeing or the unseen therein.ʹ¹ Diverse research has revealed complex scopic regimes or ways of seeing in ancient, medieval, and early modern times, but many recent publications feature modern visuality. Art historian Jonathan...

  8. Chapter Three Offering Orientalism: Women and the Gift Economy of the Museum, 1880–1940
    (pp. 71-104)

    A photograph from 1924 shows three unidentified members of the Ladiesʹ Auxiliary of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick standing inside their Societyʹs museum in Saint John (figure 3.1). Normally devoted to the display of local birds, insects, and geological specimens, the museum had been temporarily transformed into an ʹOriental bazaar,ʹ a fundraising event at which the ladies served tea and cake while dressed in Japanese, Chinese, and Indian costume. Another photograph (figure 3.2), taken eleven years later in the new museum building that replaced the Museum of the Natural History Society when it became a provincial institution, shows...

  9. Chapter Four Libraries and Museums: Shifting Relationships, 1830–1940
    (pp. 105-128)

    In 2004 the Parliament of Canada merged the National Archives of Canada with the National Library, creating an entity called Library and Archives Canada, located in Ottawa. According to Ian E. Wilson, former Librarian and Archivist of Canada, this integration was groundbreaking because it established a ʹnew kind of knowledge institution designed to preserve Canadian heritage by combining the functions of an archives, library, and museum.ʹ¹ The staff at Library and Archives Canada collect, preserve, document and make available to a diverse public such items as government records, books, family papers, newspapers, music, film, maps, photographs, documentary art, and painted...

  10. Chapter Five Gendered Professionals: Debating the Ideal Museum Worker during the 1930s and 1940s
    (pp. 129-152)

    Since the 1960s scholars have studied the ways in which museums have welcomed certain kinds of visitors while excluding others. After undertaking extensive visitor surveys at European museums, sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel argued that the institutions reinforced class distinctions: working-class and rural people felt uncomfortable in the opulent surroundings of art galleries, opting to avoid them.¹ Much less has been written, however, about the selection of museum staff, a topic similarly informed by issues of class, gender, and education. During the early twentieth century, various museum directors discussed the ideal qualities of museum workers, considering their training and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 153-158)

    The current website of the New Brunswick Museum conveys some anxiety about the continuing transformation of the institution. An overview of the museumʹs impressive history ends with the following statement: ʹIn April 1996, the New Brunswick Museum officially opened its Exhibition Centre in leased space in uptown Saint John. The museum now offers three floors and 60,000 square feet of exhibition spaces and a wide range of public programs.ʹ¹ The commercial nature of the new location in Market Square, a renovated shopping mall, is never mentioned. The website of Market Square – not linked to that of the museum –...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 159-200)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-222)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-224)