50 Years of Collecting at the National Museum of American History

Here’s the talk I wrote for the National Council on Public History conference at the end of March. It’s a piece of a longer work in progress on the history of the museum’s collections. This talk focuses on the the philosophical and bureaucratic contexts of the collecting at the museum. A second part, perhaps this summer, will look in detail at the changing nature of the objects collected. The big questions: What did they collect, why, and how can we evaluate the museum’s collecting work?

Updated: final version of presentation uploaded March 26, 2014.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the very interesting analysis! I believe that the dichotomies you referenced may be forcefully addressed by the advent of digital tagging and response to user interaction. Surely curators and other professionals have access to metrics that would equip them to gauge interest and further investigations raised by ongoing engagement. In fact, curators who invite audience engagement will quickly gain advantage and additional audience as users begin to add content by tagging items and making connections, thus providing valuable vistas for curators to adjudge current topics.
    With universal digital technology, collectivism is suddenly more hive than antheap. Collections that foment robust virtual communities that curate timely content will be the leaders as we forge new communication and network pathways!

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