Museums and cultural institutions across North America and Europe are being transformed by budget cuts, re-evaluation of their cultural missions, evolving concepts of museology, and changing audiences, making Brian Young's trenchant history of a prestigious university museum, Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History, especially pertinent. In The Making and Unmaking of a University Museum Young elucidates the relationship between museums and communities by examining the nineteenth-century social context of the family who bequeathed their collection to McGill University and the collection's fate in an academic institution. Tracing the museum's history from its founding by David Ross McCord, he emphasizes the centrality of elite women to the culture of the museum and its survival in the twentieth century, the museum's importance as the collective memory of Montreal's English-speaking elite, and the difficulty academic historians have had in dealing with material history. He recounts a sorry tale of mismatched institutional and intellectual cultures that culminated in the university's transfer of custodial responsibility to a corporate museum board and the collapse of the museum's central research and conservation mandates.
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