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Reviews

"Robert Post’s study of the evolution of America’s premier museum is authoritative, thorough, and engagingly written by a curatorial insider with a critical perspective. His judgment of Smithsonian controversies during the past generation is reliable and well informed, especially those concerning the history of technology. This is institutional history in the very best sense because it highlights the role of individuals as well as ideas. We also gain insight into the museum’s place in national politics. A most enlightening project."

"The great lacuna in historiographical accounts of the modern period is any overview of the role of the modern national museum in shaping both popular and scholarly historical presentations. While there is a modest literature in the museum studies world and a handful of dissertations, there is nothing of the scale and scope of this remarkable book. Part history, part memoir, part polemic, it is insightful, fascinating and sure to be an influential book about the history of technology and the Smithsonian Institution’s role in shaping our understanding of modern American history."

"Post admirably provokes discussion about how an official national repository goes about presenting and interpreting its historical artifacts—a great pleasure to read."

"Robert Post’s extraordinary account of the Smithsonian Institution’s treatment of history raises profound and disturbing questions about how curators, museum directors, the Smithsonian Secretary, stakeholders, and donors have shaped historical presentation. Readers will delight in Post’s sometimes humorous characterization of staff, enjoy learning how the institution has changed over the years, and benefit from this careful examination of history, technology, and culture."

"Post's thoughtful elucidation of the exhibits and the ensuing controversies demonstrate the complexities of the environment in the national museum in the twentieth century. Further, this work documents the shifting priorities of the Smithsonian, revealing the many different actors that took part in the creation of both well-known exhibits and many smaller ones. The book also provides many interesting and important examples of the interconnections between historians of technology and the Smithsonian. This excellent work will be valuable to public historians as well as laypersons."

"A pick for any collection strong in museum management and history. The result goes beyond a recommendation for arts holdings, examining how American history itself is documented and presented."

"A detailed insider's look at growth and change across the institution. The book offers a rich and readable intellectual biography of the Smithsonian."

"The Smithsonian finally gets its Washington insider-tells-all memoir. Who Owns America's Past? documents the value of the Smithsonian's distinctive culture—and also the way it has kept the institution from being all that it might be."

"Weaves original primary source research, scholarly synthesis, and personal experiences into a highly readable study of the cultural history of America's most popular museum institution."

"Here is an eyewitness account of many of the personalities, controversies, artifacts, and interpretations that most of us know in their final, burnished form, upon the walls of the world's greatest history museum. Who Owns America's Past? is a needed book."

"This is an important book that examines the inner workings of the Smithsonian in ways that are both interesting and useful. There are no easy answers to the questions Post raises with this insightful text."

"For readers curious about the upper stories and basement spaces beyond the exhibits, it provides access to decision makers and the collections they oversaw because the author regularly walked those spaces and conversed with their denizens... This book did not promise comprehensiveness or even an answer to the general question of 'who' or even 'what' defines history, but Post's account does provide a reminder that it is important to seek out the answer to that question in specific places because—particularly at one of the nation's most visible and influential institutions—it matters."

"This is a most readable account written by an insider of a fascinating institution."

Who Owns America's Past?
The Smithsonian and the Problem of History
QTY:
$31.95
Publication Date: 2017
Status: Backorder
Backorder. Will ship when available.
Trim Size: 6.125" x 9.25"
Page Count: 400 pages
Illustrations: 49 halftones
ISBN: 9781421411002