Curators make many decisions when they build collections or design exhibitions, plotting a passage of discovery that also tells an essential story. Collecting captures the past in a way useful to the present and the future. Exhibits play to our senses and orchestrate our impressions, balancing presentation and preservation, information and emotion. Curators consider visitors’ interactions with objects and with one another, how our bodies move through displays, how our eyes grasp objects, how we learn and how we feel. Inside the Lost Museum documents the work museums do and suggests ways these institutions can enrich the educational and aesthetic experience of their visitors.
Woven throughout Inside the Lost Museum is the story of the Jenks Museum at Brown University, a nineteenth-century display of natural history, anthropology, and curiosities that disappeared a century ago. The Jenks Museum’s past, and a recent effort by artist Mark Dion, Steven Lubar, and their students to reimagine it as art and history, serve as a framework for exploring the long record of museums’ usefulness and service.
Museum lovers know that energy and mystery run through every collection and exhibition. Lubar explains work behind the scenes—collecting, preserving, displaying, and using art and artifacts in teaching, research, and community-building—through historical and contemporary examples. Inside the Lost Museum speaks to the hunt, the find, and the reveal that make curating and visiting exhibitions and using collections such a rewarding and vital pursuit.
Gives readers a privileged peek into the storerooms, boardrooms, and curatorial offices of many storied institutions. In doing so, the book offers a scholarly snapshot of the role that museums have played throughout history, as well as the challenges they face today. Although students and interested laymen will undoubtedly gain much from Lubar’s comprehensive overview, even the most experienced museum professionals will likely learn a thing or two.
Steven Lubar has written a wonderfully comprehensive and intriguing assessment of the impact and importance of museums by unearthing both the history of these cultural institutions and the contemporary challenges that face the field. Featuring an insider’s knowledge and a scholar’s curiosity, Inside the Lost Museum is a must-read for those who want to understand how museums shape America’s memories and its national identity.
In this volume, Steven Lubar, among the most thoughtful scholars and professionals in the field, turns ‘museum’ into a verb, taking us behind the scenes to show how collecting, exhibiting, and programming are conceived and organized. His clear, straightforward, and insightful account provides case studies as well as a larger framework for understanding museological practices, choices, historical trends, controversies, and possible futures. The treatment of art, science, and history museums and occupational roles from director and curator to exhibition designer and educator make this required reading for everyone in the museum field.
Inside the Lost Museum ably demonstrates that Steven Lubar is among the most perceptive historians thinking and writing about the American museum today. Equipped with intimate knowledge from years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Lubar connects the history of early museums to what currently transpires behind the scenes, as staff debate ideas for exhibitions, wrestle with ethical dilemmas, and attempt to foster greater public participation than ever before.
Inside the Lost Museum is a book worth wandering through, much like the capacious institutions whose histories and futures it contemplates…[A]thoughtful and feeling survey of changing practices of curation in American museums of all sorts.
Offers illuminating chapters on key curatorial questions about museum life…Lubar’s highly accessible book sits comfortably on museum-studies shelves alongside such works as Stephen Weil’s Making Museums Matter, Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum, and Adrian George’s The Curator’s Handbook…It could be of practical interest to people who participate in any organization, large or small, devoted to preserving or displaying art or artifacts.
- 416 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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