Chapter

“A Vision of the Future”:

Karen A. Rader and Victoria E. M. Cain

in Life on Display

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2014 | ISBN: 9780226079660
Published online May 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780226079837 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226079837.003.0001
“A Vision of the Future”:

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Between the 1890s and the 1910s, a young generation of reformers inspired by a transnational movement known as “the New Museum Idea” agreed that natural history museums had a social responsibility to reach and teach all citizens about nature and biology. Convinced that museum displays could and should become powerful pedagogical tools, reformers persuaded their colleagues to build collections and displays that would appeal to both scientists and the lay public. A small but influential group of reformers, known as “museum men,” led effort to realize exhibits’ educational potential and to establish museums as major forces in American science education. Though many argued over the shape and extent of museum reform, by the mid-1910s, reformers had persuaded most staff members to rally behind their tripartite vision of the museum as a place for the preservation of specimens, the production of scientific knowledge, and an institution of popular education.

Keywords: George Brown Goode; New Museum Idea; museum men; American Association of Museums; display collections; taxonomic display; nature study; life groups; United States National Museum; Colorado Museum of Natural History

Chapter.  17219 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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