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Barnum to Second Life: American Identities in the Museum
Instructor: Clarissa J. Ceglio Tues/Thurs at 2:30-3:50 p.m. Clarissa_Ceglio@brown.edu J. Walter Wilson, Room 301 Office hours: Tues. 12:30-2:00 p.m. or by appointment Office location: John Nicholas Brown Center, 357 Benefit Street, 2nd Floor Library Description: In 2008 some 850 million people visited American museums.1 That’s six times the number that attended all major-league sports games combined. In fact, the number and popularity of museums has grown to the point where many people accept them at face value. That is, we see museums as authoritative sites that collect, preserve, and exhibit objects in order to educate and entertain—but we don’t ask how these activities function as a form of cultural power. This course explores that power by asking, “How do museums shape our thoughts about what it means to be American? How do museums create and reflect ideas about national and self identity, citizenship, and belonging?” We’ll trace the history of these issues by examining a number of case studies, going on field trips, and assessing visual, material, and textual evidence. We’ll conclude by considering what recent changes in demographics, technology and the economy might mean for museums and their publics. Objectives: Students will have the opportunity to Recognize that ideas about identity are rooted in historical contexts and change over time Understand how museums participate in the construction of identities Think critically about textual, visual, material, and web-based evidence Advance writing skills Required Texts: All readings are available through OCRA and can be accessed through the Brown University Library or MyCourses web site. Books are also on reserve at the Rockefeller Library. Please bring assigned readings to the designated class session as either hard or e-copies. Requirements: Evaluation is based on the following Attendance and participation in class activities. This includes serving as a discussion coleader at least once during the semester (10%) Critical review and comparison paper (4-6 pages; 20%) Object observation paper (4-6 pages; 20%) Site response paper (4-6 pages; 20%) Final project (16-page research paper or 7-page research paper w/ podcast; 30%) This is a discussion seminar, which means we will explore topics and readings through a productive exchange of viewpoints. The course’s success depends on the active engagement of every student. So, you will be expected to attend every class prepared to be thoughtful contributors to discussion. Students are expected to attend all scheduled classes, including fieldtrips, and to follow the university’s Academic Code for all written assignments. Please tell me as soon as possible if a disability-related accommodation is needed or if you have questions about physical access. Changes to the syllabus may be made at the instructor’s discretion.
“Museum Facts,” American Association of Museums, 2009. http://www.speakupformuseums.org/museum_facts.htm 1
Week 1: Introduction What is it that museums do and how can we study them? Thursday 1/28 Activities - Museum Survey: Where have you been? What have you seen? The Pinky Show: museum episode
Week 2: Museums as “Story Tellers” How do museums use images, objects, text and space to construct narratives? What can these narrations tell us about citizenship and national identity? Tuesday 2/2: Defining Our Core Terms Activities: Thinking about images as evidence Readings Edward P. Alexander and Mary Alexander, “What is a Museum?”in Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2008), 1-19. Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, “What is a Museum,” in Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge (New York: Routledge, 1992), 1-9. John Storey, “Popular Culture as the ‘Roots’ and ‘Routes’ of Cultural Identities” in Inventing Popular Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 78-91. Thursday 2/4: Case Study - Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum Activities - Thinking about objects as evidence Paper assignment #1 discussed Readings David R. Bingham, “Social Class and Participation at Peale's Philadelphia Museum,” in Mermaids, Mummies, and Mastodons: The Emergence of the American Museum, ed. William T. Alderson (Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 1992), 78-87. Gary Kulik, “Designing the Past: History-Museum Exhibitions from Peale to the Present” in History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment, ed. Warren Leon and Roy Rosenzweig (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 3-37. Only 3-17 required Laura Rigal, “Peale’s Mammoth” in The American Manufactory: Art, Labor, and the World of Things in the Early Republic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 90-113. Only 109-113 required. Paul Semonin, “Peale’s Mastodon: The Skeleton in Our Closet,” Common-Place 4, no. 2 (2004). http://www.common-place.org/vol-04/no-02/semonin/
Week 3: Analyzing Objects What is material culture and how can we study it? Tuesday 2/9: Archives and Collections: Online and On Campus NOTE: We’ll meet in class and go as a group to the Hay Library’s Bruhn Room. Readings Select an assigned reading for paper assignment #1 Explore http://www.lostmuseum.cuny.edu/home.html, including the archives
Thursday 2/11: Interpreting Objects from the Nightingale-Brown House Collections NOTE: We’ll meet in class and go as a group to The John Nicholas Brown Center, 357 Benefit Street (at the corner of Williams and Benefit streets). Paper assignment #2 discussed Kenneth Haltman, “Introduction” (1-10) and Jules David Prown “The Truth of Material Culture: History or Fiction” (11-27) in American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture, ed. Jules David Prown and Kenneth Haltman (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000). About the Nightingale-Brown House: http://www.brown.edu/Research/JNBC/our_building.php
Week 4: Analyzing Ways of Seeing How did museums help the emerging middle class of the mid-1800s make sense of its place in the world? In what ways does digital technology enable us to study the past? Tuesday 2/16: Interpreting Objects - continued NOTE: Meet at The John Nicholas Brown Center, 357 Benefit Street Activity - Object observation and writing exercise. Thursday 2/18: Case Study – Barnum’s American Museum Paper assignment #3 discussed Readings Neil Harris, “Chapter 2: The American Museum” and “Chapter 3: The Operational Aesthetic,” in Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 31-90. Select an archival document from http://www.lostmuseum.cuny.edu/home.html and be prepared to discuss its relationship to the Harris reading.
Week 5: Humans as Objects in the Age of Barnum In what ways did late 19th-century museum displays explore and define ideas about race? Wednesday 2/24: Paper #1 due; drop-off at 82 Waterman by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday 2/23: Long weekend holiday; no class Thursday 2/25: Racialized identities Readings James W. Cook, “Chapter 3: Describing the Nondescript,” in The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 119-162. John Kuo Wei Tchen, “Chapter 5: Edifying Curiosities,” in New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture 1776-1882 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 97-130.
Week 6: Humans as Objects in the Age of Science How did the professionalization of museums change the ways in which ideas about “the other” were constructed and displayed? Tuesday 3/2: National Progress and the “Indian Problem” Readings Robert Trennert, A. “A Grand Failure: The Centennial Indian Exhibition of 1876." Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives (summer 1974): 118-29. Curtis M. Hinsley, “The World as Marketplace: Commodification of the Exotic at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893,” in Exhibiting Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, eds. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 344-65. Thursday 3/4: Scientific Practice and Bodies of Evidence Readings/Film Kenn Harper, Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo (South Royalton, VT: Steerforth Press, 2000), 11-42, 83-97, and 225-9. American Experience: Minik, the Lost Eskimo
Week 7: House Museums and Domestic Concerns What does the craze for house museums in the early 20th century tell us national issues such as immigration and women’s citizenship? How are house museums adapting to the 21st century? Tuesday 3/9: Clinging to the Euro-American Past Paper #2 Draft due in class Readings Patricia West, “Gender Politics and the Orchard House Museum,” in Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America's House Museums (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999), 38-91. Thursday 3/11: Case Study - John Brown House Museum NOTE: We’ll meet in class and proceed to the John Brown House Museum, 52 Power Street Readings Ron Potvin, “Shrine, House or Home? Rethinking the House Museum Paradigm,” (forthcoming): 1-10.
Week 8: Identity in Times of War, Part I How do national trauma and war define what it means to be American? What role do museums play in shaping ideas about citizenship during such times? Tuesday 3/16: Historic House/Home Wrap-up and Final Project Workshop Bring a list of 2-3 potential topics for your final project to discuss Thursday 3/18 - Case Study - Road to Victory Readings “Road to Victory: A Procession of Photographs of the Nation at War,” The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art 9, no. 5-6 (June 1942).
Mary Anne Staniszewski, “Exhibition as National Covenant: The ‘Road to Victory,’” in The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 209-27.
Week 9: Memory and the Call to Witness What role do objects play as keepers of memory? In defining who we are? How does museum commemoration of past traumas shape our sense of identity? How does the retelling of the past serve the needs of the present? Monday 3/22: Paper #2 final due; drop-off at 82 Waterman by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday 3/23: Second Life set-up at Educational Technology Center NOTE: We’ll meet in class and go as a group to the Educational Technology Center, 2nd Fl., CIT bldg, 115 Waterman St. Readings Joelle Seligson, “My Raven-haired Avatar Flies through the Museum.” Museum News (Sep/Oct 2007): 55-60. http://www.aam-us.org/pubs/mn/secondlife.cfm Thursday 3/25: Case Study - September 11: Bearing Witness to History Film Objects and Memory (2008) Readings Amy Fried, “The Personalization of Collective Memory: The Smithsonian's September 11 Exhibit.” Political Communication 23, no. 4 (2006): 387-405. September 11: Bearing Witness to History. http://americanhistory.si.edu/september11/ **Spring Recess: No classes week of March 29 – April, 2**
Week 10: Claiming the Power to Self-representation in the Museum How have marginalized groups claimed the cultural power of the museum to tell their own stories? How do they (re)define what it means to be American? Tuesday 4/6: Expanding participation and representation Readings Edmund Barry Gaither, “‘Hey! That’s Mine’: Thoughts on Pluralism and American Museums,” in Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture, Karp, Kreamer, and Lavine, eds. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 56-64. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Carl Groda, “Displaying and Celebrating the ‘Other’: A Study of the Mission, Scope, and Roles of Ethnic Museums in Los Angeles.” The Public Historian 26, no. 4 (fall 2004): 49-71. Thursday 4/8: Case Study - Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center Readings Cooper, Karen Coody, Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2008), ix-19 (Preface, Intro and Protesting Exhibitions). Mary Lawlor, “Identity in Mashantucket.” American Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2005): 153-177. http://www.pequotmuseum.org **4/10: Saturday Field trip to Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center**
Week 11: Identity in Times of War, Part II How are current wars being interpreted by museums? How does digital media and social networking change things? What visions of American identity emerge? Tuesday 4/13: MPMRC Wrap-up and Final Project Workshop Outline and annotated bibliography of sources due Activity – Peer feedback on project and planning next steps Thursday 4/15: Case Study -The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Readings The Price of Freedom: Americans at War: http://americanhistory.si.edu/Militaryhistory/ Scott Boehm, “Privatizing Public Memory: The Price of Patriotic Philanthropy and the Post9/11 Politics of Display.” American Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2006): 1147-66.
Week 12: The Virtual Museum How does the internet change the ways we experience museums? How does it change ideas about identity? Paper #3 Site/exhibition review due 4/22 or sooner Tuesday 4/20 Case Study – Exhibiting “The War on Terror” Readings
Wendy S. Hesford, “Staging Terror.” TDR 50, no. 3 (autumn 2006): 29-41
Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib exhibition web site:
It is What it Is: Conversations about Iraq exhibition web site: http://www.conversationsaboutiraq.org/
Thursday 4/22: Case Study- the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum NOTE: We’ll meet in the Educational Technology Center Activity - Second Life field trip Readings http://latino.si.edu/education/LVM_Main.htm Week 13: Conclusions Tuesday 4/27: Second Life Wrap-up and Thoughts on American Identities Project progress report presentations, part I Thursday 4/29: Project Presentations– Final class Project progress report presentations, part II
** Final Project due 5/18 no later than 9:00 a.m. (scheduled time of final exams)**
Assignments Further instructions for each paper will be provided and discussed in class. Paper #1 Critical Review and Comparison (4-6 pages) – Due 2/24 Select one of the assigned readings from week 5-12 (2/25-4/20) and identify a scholarly article on the same or closely related topic. Following the format provided, prepare an expanded annotation for each text. Next, compare the arguments made by each scholar and offer an assessment. Be prepared to share your observations on the day the reading you have selected is discussed in class. Paper #2 Object Analysis (4-6 pages) – Draft due 3/9, final due 3/22 Based on class work with the Nightingale-Brown House collection—and following the outline provided in American Artifacts—provide a description of your object, initial deductions and speculations, and next steps for further research. One option for the final project is to develop this exploratory work into a research paper. Paper #3 Site/exhibition Review (4-6 pages) – Due 4/22 or sooner Analyze a museum exhibit with attention to the ways in which it engages concepts of identity. You may write about one of the museums we visit as a group (using the free writing that we do in class as your starting point) or select a museum or online exhibition of your choosing. If writing about a site we do not visit as a class (which I encourage), please discuss your selection with me prior to handing in your paper. One option for the final project is to develop this short review into a research paper, which, if you are working with a physical museum space, might include an audio tour podcast. Final Project (16-page research paper or 7-page research paper w/ audio tour) – Due 5/18 We will discuss final project options in class. Projects will progress in stages. On 3/16 we will workshop ideas in class. On 4/13, a brief project outline with annotated bibliography is due. On 4/ 27 and 4/29, progress reports will be presented for feedback. The final project is due 5/18 no later than 9:00 a.m., the time of the scheduled exam.